Monday, May 17, 2010

Preaching on Preaching

I spent some time yesterday talking about the “primacy of preaching” in the life of the church. Preaching gets a bad wrap these days. It’s not uncommon to hear people say things like, “I don’t want to be preached to…,” or “Don’t preach to me…,” etc. Even within Christian circles, the art of preaching has been accused by some of being an outdated form. “Preaching had its day, but today there are better ways to communicate truth to God’s people,” is the way it is usually presented. We are told that people have short attention spans today and that we just don’t want to sit and listen to somebody talk to us for 30+ minutes.

Then you have others such as George Barna and Frank Viola in their book, Pagan Christianity, that claim that the role of “professional” preacher is pagan in its origins and that the early church never had such a role in its structure. They, instead, would advocate for a home church model where everyone sits around taking turns speaking or “preaching” as they feel led.

Let me say as a “preacher” that preaching truly is an art. Bad preaching is always outdated. And nobody wants to sit for any length of time and listen to bad preacher. That said, the art of preaching is biblical in its origin. As part of my current preaching series on 1 and 2 Peter, we looked yesterday at 1 Peter 1:12 which speaks specifically about the primacy of preaching in the church. I have gleaned the following thoughts about preaching’s role and what makes for good preaching:

1. Preaching is Holy Spirit led. It is a divine activity. Annual minister manuals that include 52 weeks of sermons (yes, there are such things) fly in the face of biblical preaching. Every church is different and every church requires the Holy Spirit to guide the preacher towards the content for that particular church.

2. Preaching involves the Good News. The “Good News” is a term of victory after battle. Every sermon ought to proclaim the Good News or it is not preaching. The Good News is THE central component of biblical preaching.

3. Preaching always comes from God’s Word (Bible), not man’s word. Sermons that do not use the Bible or that only give minor usage to 1 or 2 verses slip away from being sermons delivered by a preacher and become speeches delivered by an orator.

4. Preaching is something that happens uniquely in a church. When God’s people come together corporately, preaching ought to occur. Preaching should define the church. Just as the Good News ought to define the preaching.

5. Preaching is the envy of the angels. It is interesting that we tend to take for granted what angels LONG to sit under. Preaching should be longed for, not loathed. When was the last time you changed your weekend plans because you had to make it for the sermon?

Once again, let me say that bad preaching is always out of style. But great preaching draws people, it captivates people, it changes people. You should insist on great preaching! And as a “preacher” I’m allowed to say that:)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sermon to go prepare…


Kevin said...

Great article Jeff. Isn't funny as the church is abandoning preaching, the Technology, Entertainment and Design field is beginning to embrace the power of an individual voice in their TED talks. They are running toward a genre that the church is running from.

Jeff Crawford said...

Amen...Kevin. I also think it is interesting that the churches in our country that are really growing are the one that typically have LONGER and meatier sermons. Mark Driscoll in Seattle typically preaches for over an hour on heavy doctrinal issues...draws thousands of people in their 20s and 30s. Hmmm.....

Terrel said...

I read Pagan Christianity. I feel you may have missed the point Viola and Barna were making. The book is in critique of the practice we call church. In the chapters about the sermon and the preacher looked at the biblical significance for each and how our current practice came about.

You are right to assert preaching should be about the gospel and it is a spiritual gift, but the point Viola/Barna make is that it is not for the believing community. The gospel is for the dying world. The believing community knows the gospel (which isn't to say that we are not in need of a reminder every now and then).

The questions raised are, "What is the purpose of our meeting as the community of believers? and does preaching effectively achieve that goal?" The authors see the "one another" statements found throughout the new testament as that goal. In achieving the goal of allowing each person to exercise the "one another" admonishments and exercise their spiritual gifts, preaching of the kind we think of us does not achieve this goal because only one person is participating.

Brett said...

Hey brother in Him,

Pulpiteering isn't a NT practice... except when Paul and Co went from town to town preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. They would regularly go first to the Synagogue and preach, usually they would then be kicked out and would see a Kingdom community form (outside the holy building). Although they would then teach amongst the believers, it was primarily done in homes.

Have a thorough study of Acts 20 whare Paul was "long preaching". They met in a huperion- 'upstairs of a home' to "break bread" not to do a church service. Both times when KJV accuses Paul of midnight monologues- "long preaching" the word preaching is dialegomai- (where we get dialogue from). Sure Paul was teaching but others were contributing too.

NT does present leaders who teach/equip but not the modern pulpiteering which pushes plenty onto pacive pews while one hero preaches with prowess. I resigned from that stage strutting years ago and am quite content to teach in a manner where the Holy Spirit can speak through all in the room, not just me.

What are yours thoughts on this-