Preaching: Demanding Work but Such a Calling
- 2009 9 Sep
The center stage of pastoring is most always identified with preaching. It's the one activity that garners the biggest audience, evokes the highest praise, and fuels the hottest critiques. It must be important because "Preacher" and other forms of the word appear 150 times in scripture. That's even more than "Church" and "Hell" combined.
The most popular yardstick to measure great preaching is oratory with charisma: "Can the preacher keep me interested or, better yet, entertained?" And secondly, response: "When fishing for men, can the preacher fill up the net?"
But those can't be true criteria, or else Elmer Gantry and Billy Graham would both qualify. Great preaching, it would appear, has little to do with the size of our talent and everything to do with the size of our God. Proclaiming God's word is neither a performance nor a sport. Nor is it a show-and-tell for a man or his gift. It is simply the spoken word opening the written word to proclaim the incarnate word.
A head count in the prayer room is no indication of successful preaching either. Otherwise Hudson Taylor was a flop and William Carey bombed. Nor is a long sermon necessarily a great sermon. Jonah's preaching led to a national revival, although his message contained only eight words. For that audience, eight was enough. "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown."
The greatest of all preachers was Jesus himself. Whether the crowd was large or small, they were amazed. "Where did this man get this wisdom?" Yet, at times His words were rejected. In one service His crowd dropped from thousands of happy listeners to twelve frustrated disciples. They all wanted more palatable preaching. But Jesus wouldn't compromise.
In that day the prevailing homiletic style of pulpiteers was to quote each other. Jesus' secret was simple, he quoted God. A novel concept. Each word was carefully chosen. "I have given them Thy words." He was more concerned with the heart of preaching than with the art of preaching. His messages were laced with help and hope. Some might want to be slick, but Jesus wanted to connect. His words were never reduced to rhetorical fluff. They were theological yet practical, simple but rich. The children would sit up close for they loved to listen to Him.... and He loved them! Women were moved by His gentleness and respect. Men were challenged by Him. Wherever He went, they followed. He must have heard the same questions a million times. But even though He got tired in the work, He never got tired of the work. Someone has said, "Christ preached as a dying man to dying men." He gave His all. He left nothing in His study.
Charles Spurgeon preached like that. "I have known what it is to use up all my ammunition. Then I have, as it were, rammed myself into the great Gospel gun and I have fired myself at my hearers - - all my consciousness of sin, and all my sense of the power of the gospel. There are some people upon whom that kind of preaching tells when nothing else does, for they see that then you are communicating to them not only the gospel, but yourself also."
It's a demanding work. Oh, but what a calling! We support and encourage you in it.
Vice President of Church Relations
P.S. If you're looking for great preaching tools, don't forget Preaching Magazine. It's my favorite. Check it out at Preaching.com. Do your congregation a favor by subscribing.
Copyright 2007 by Ron Walters
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Original publication date: September 9, 2009