As I look upon the spiritual landscape of this valley at the dawn of a new year, I am more and more convinced that what sparked the Reformation, the American Revolution, the revivals of the first and second great awakening, and what is desperately needed in this valley, is fire that is preached from the pulpit.
The pulpit or preaching, rather has been and will always be the instrument by which God will transform both individual and nation. The gospel, according to Romans 1:16 is the power of God to save those who will believe, and the Spirit empowered proclamation of it, is what allows faith to be birthed in a person’s heart for it is written that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
Yet in our modern day, there is an almost a disdain for preaching. Unfortunately, many pastors for the sake of attempting to be innovative, culturally relevant, and not wanting to give offense, have diminished the importance of preaching, to become more conversational in their approach. Many have forsaken the “blood-earnestness” that was a hallmark of the Puritanical preachers of old, to more of an easily palatable and colloquial address, during Sunday morning services. In doing so, they have forfeited something that is dynamic and unique to Christianity.
No, preaching is not the end all be all, nor is it a substitute for acts of service. However, most people will easily fall into the ditch, that it is the acts of service that are more important, after all Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying “Preach the gospel but use words if necessary.” That is not only unbiblical, but misquoting Francis. There is no record of him ever saying that, however considering that the Franciscan order of monks are in fact preachers, what Francis did say, is that preachers need to back up their message by their deeds. In other words, don’t disqualify yourself or the message you are proclaiming, by being a hypocrite.
There are a few qualifications to define what preaching is. Just because someone speaks from behind a pulpit or lectern in a church, that doesn’t qualify as preaching.
Preaching first and foremost, must be expository, meaning that the proclamation must be drawn out of the Bible. It does no one any good for a message to be based on man’s opinion and not on the Scriptures alone. The reason is that man is fallible, his opinions are not authoritative, and temporary, but God’s Word is inerrant and forever authoritative, able to be applied to every circumstance that an individual is going through.
Secondly the design of preaching is to exalt Christ. There is one singular focus that is necessary for all preaching and that is Jesus. His person and work, by way of the cross, subsequent resurrection from the dead, and his imminent return, all encapsulated in what Christians call the gospel, is enough to give any preacher an eternity of something to talk about. As C.H. Spurgeon once said “If there is no Christ in your sermon, go home and don’t come back until you have something worthy to talk about.”
Lastly, if preaching is to be expository, rooted in the Bible and designed to magnify the risen Christ, then it is also aimed at penetrating the affections. It is not enough to wax on about historical names and dates, or grammatical structures in Bible verses, rather preaching is to make a person aware of their desperate condition and raise the affection of their heart toward the Savior who can save to the uttermost. This is what separates preaching from teaching and where many of my brethren (including myself) struggle. Truth, doctrine must be taught in our churches and every sermon should possess increasingly high theology, so much so, that one might call us “too academic,” but also there should be a degree of passion, as mentioned before, blood earnestness that differentiates what is being said from being a mere lecture.
An individual, church, community and nation will be transformed under that type of preaching, because it is unlike any other form of communication that has, or ever will, exist. So in 2018, may we expect nothing less than the preaching of the Word from our pulpits; being prepared in season and out of season, to correct, rebuke, and encourage, so that Christ is exalted and this valley is changed (2 Tim. 4:2).