Preaching: Act of Spirituality or Arrogance?
- Tuesday, June 08, 2010
The act of preaching is either a spiritual act or an arrogant act. There is nothing in between for anyone who stands in the pulpit.
The act of preaching can be a spiritual act empowered by the Holy Spirit, done through a man taught by the Spirit who has pondered God's word until it has gripped him in such a way that he must speak for God's glory because the living Truth has become a raging fire in his bones.
Or the act of preaching can be an arrogant act empowered by the flesh, done by a man who has pandered God's word until his cleverness has gripped him in such a way that he speaks for his own glory because there are only the charred ashes of death in his bones.
Which is preaching for you? A spiritual act or an arrogant act? You must face this question and make this decision. Consider this definition of preaching and you will immediately know that preaching must be a spiritual act:
Preaching: The proclamation of God's inspired word for God's intended purpose through God's uniquely empowered herald to God's listening (or is it listless?) people.
The preacher stands as a herald for God, a spokesman with a message that men and women must have to know Him. His word is not a word of human wisdom, neither a collection of good ideas to be considered nor nice thoughts to be pondered, but God's truth to be obeyed. His proclamation is a word from God that brings its hearers into a relationship with Him and guides them into a deeper walk with Him. With all of this, his listeners know the preacher is a mortal, but they hope--and even trust--the preacher has been in God's presence in ways they may not have been. They hope--and trust--that the preacher is on some sort of speaking terms with God, that he has an intimate relationship with God, and he has pursued God with an energy they may not be able to muster. This means he has gotten a word from God for them. They hope, but rarely find, that their preacher is an intimate with God.
For us to preach out of anything less than intimacy with God is for us to be deceivers, charlatans, living liars proclaiming truth we aren't practicing, thus demonstrating ourselves to possess an incomprehensible arrogance. No man can stand in the pulpit in his own right or speak out of his own interests. Unless a man is thoroughly overwhelmed and humbled by the task of preaching, he has no right to preach.
However, there is much about preaching that lifts a man up and exalts him rather than God. Preaching is exciting and exhilarating. There's something electric about standing in front of a congregation waiting to hear the preacher, ready to hang on to every word he says. Unless we see preaching as supremely spiritual it will degenerate into a play for recognition and fame, an effort at self-promotion and self-exaltation. We cannot allow this to happen.
We must also turn from the banal (that which is common or stale, powerless, of no value; that which replaces the power of the cross with the flashiness of the flesh or the futility of the safe), from the shallowness of nice stories and the slickness of "that'll preach" catch phrases. Eugene Peterson is right when he warns us that we can exchange a call from God for an idol, "...an offer by the devil for work that can be measured and manipulated at the convenience of the worker" (Eugene H. Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant. Grand Rapids, MI: William D. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992, p. 5). To paraphrase Peterson; preaching must be blazing with the glory of God's convicting presence in and through the preacher. If we sacrifice preaching on the altar of programs and success, we will sacrifice the power of God for the idolatry of the banal. When we preach apart from intimacy with God we assume that God isn't serious about the very word we are proclaiming, that He won't hold us accountable for our hypocrisy. Yet no sin is more severely judged in Scripture than hypocrisy, as we see through Achan and Ananias and Sapphira. God is not casual about hypocrisy, and we can't be either.
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