What I've Learned about Preaching
- Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Not long ago I was asked to give a lecture on preaching. More specifically I was asked to talk about what I have learned about preaching over the years. My only qualification to address this topic comes from 40 years of trying to preach. I am what you might call a working preacher as opposed to a professor of homiletics. I preach because that is what God has called me to do, not because I possess some special talent in this area. But if you preach long enough, and in enough different settings, and if you listen to enough sermons by other preachers, you are bound to develop some convictions about the way things ought to be done.
During a recent trip to Uganda, I addressed a group of young men, most of whom had very little formal training, on the topic, "Ten Things I Have Learned About Preaching." We met in an outdoor tabernacle, on a warm morning, the young men listening with intense interest to what I had to say. When I was finished, they pointed out that I had only covered my first four points. Or perhaps it was three. They weren't quite agreed on how far I had gone, but they all knew I had not covered my ten points. I promised them that I would commit my thoughts to writing. So this is the result, and it is mostly for the benefit of my friends in Uganda and also for my own edification. And in the spirit of preachers everywhere, I have added an 11th point.
I hope you find some benefit in what I have written. Needless to say, some other preacher would emphasize other points or perhaps would disagree with something I say here. That is perfectly fine because preaching is as much an art as a science, and one man's method may not help someone else. I offer these as my own observations on preaching, nothing more. Read on at your own risk. Or at least read with a curiosity to see what I have to say. If it helps someone, I am glad. It certainly has helped me to write out my thoughts.
So, then, where shall we begin? Let's start with a point that needs new emphasis in our day.
1. Preaching is a Noble Calling and the Central Work of the Ministry
It is generally agreed that preaching itself is not very popular nowadays. If someone gives us advice we don't like, we're apt to say, "Don't preach at me." One source defines preaching as a "moralistic rebuke." But the Bible says that "Jesus came . . . preaching" (Mark 1:14 KJV). And Paul reminds us it is by "our foolish preaching" (1 Corinthians 1:21 NLT) that God saves the lost. Christianity has always been a preaching religion. As Paul points out in Romans 10:13-15, the divine order is preaching, hearing, believing. Unless we preach, the lost have nothing to believe for salvation. The word "gospel" literally means "good news." And what do you do with good news? You share it, you tell it, you pass it along, and you preach it. That's why Paul told young Timothy to demonstrate his calling by his godly life and by devoting himself to preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 4:12-14). Or to put it more simply, "Preach the Word" (2 Timothy 4:2).
No matter how the world may devalue preaching, it remains the core of a pastor's ministry. Just check out the churches seeking a pastor. They all say the same thing, "Send us someone who can preach well." Other things may be optional. If a man can preach but he can't administrate, the church can always hire an administrator. If he can preach but can't counsel, the church will hire a counselor. If he can preach but doesn't always dress well, the church can buy him a new wardrobe.
Whenever I think of this, I recall my first week at Dallas Seminary 36 years ago. Like all first-year students I was required to take a course called "Bible Study Methods" taught by Dr. Howard Hendricks. In the very first class he made a remark that changed my life. "Men, if you can learn to teach the Bible and do it well, you can cut a wide swath in any direction. You can go anywhere you want because there is always a need for Bible teaching." Then in passing he added this thought. "If you can learn to teach the Bible and do it well, you can take care of your family for the rest of your life." That got my attention because at that moment I had been married for less than a week. Now that 36 years have passed, everything Prof Hendricks said still seems perfectly true to me.
Recently on Pastors / Leadership
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content