Many people, even Christians have probably not considered the question of what the role of preaching is. This is not a condemnatory statement but rather an observation that will hopefully be answered in this brief study.
Some scripture references to preaching:
– Mark 2v2 “And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.”
– Acts 5v42 “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease to teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ”
– Matt 3v1 “and in those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness…”
– Romans 10v14 “…And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” v15”…How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” v17”..So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.”
– 1 Cor 9v27 “But I discipline my body and keep it under control lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
– 1 Cor 15v14 “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
– Gal 1v9 “…If anyone one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
– 2 Tim 5v17 “Let the Elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching.”
– Titus 1v3 “…and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Saviour,..”
The role of preaching with reference to the above scriptures:
- To attract many people, in fact, crowds of people. In Mark 2v2 there were so many people gathered in a building that they could not all fit. Preaching has a role in that it gathers large crowds of people to be together and hear the gospel of Christ. Preaching in itself ushers in the presence of God and creates an “atmosphere” of expectation and faith.
- Another role of preaching is to preach Christ. The centrality of Christ in preaching cannot be overemphasised! Preaching must always point people back to the reality, love, truth, person, peace, power etc of our victorious Jesus!
- Preaching has another role in that it not only invites people to Christ but takes Christ to the people. Preaching took place and still does take place in the temples (large gathering places) and houses (into communities).
- Preaching must not cease. It must keep going out to all people as a herald of good news to all people everywhere.
- Preaching must happen so that people can hear the good news. Its role therefore is to be heard.
- Preaching the word produces faith, and faith comes from hearing the word of Christ.
- Preaching guides those who hear into all truth and shows not only through its words but through the very preachers examples themselves too, the ways of Christ.
- Preaching needs to support the fundamental doctrinal truths of the gospel especially Christ raised from the dead. Preaching has a role therefore in maintaining and contending for truth.
- Preaching has a role to reveal truth at the proper time and at the proper place, so that the fullness of Christ can be manifest to those who are hearing.
- To help bring people to maturity in Christ. To teach God’s flock!
There is a mandate on and for those who preach:
- They need to watch their doctrine closely.
- They need to watch their lives closely so that they are an example of what they are preaching.
- They need to be able to speak well and hold the attention of a crowd.
- They need to have an understanding of the theology of the word and be able to make even the simpler people in an audience understand it. Martin Luther said, “A preacher should have the skill to teach the unlearned simply, roundly and plainly, for teaching is of more importance than exhorting. When I preach I regard neither doctors nor magistrates, of whom I have above 40 in the congregation. I have all my eyes on the servant maids and the children…..”
- Preachers need to know that they are worthy of honour. Andrew Blackwood said, “Preaching should rank as the noblest work on earth.” P43,Stott,1982.
- Preachers need to know that the bible says they have beautiful feet! (You know what I mean!) God’s love is poured out because you are doing the very thing that he himself did!
- Preaching is a trust.
- Preaching is a command.
- Preaching is a “calling”.
- Have soundness of speech and integrity of heart.
- Have good presence.
- Have faith, courage and conviction (no one will believe you if you don’t).
- Have love (you don’t want to be a resounding gong!). Richard Baxter said,”I preached as never sure to preach again and as a dying man to dying men.”
- Don’t be long winded (You don’t want to kill people – Paul did but he also had the faith to raise them from the dead!) Jesus had the crowds following him; he had to tell them to go home. Paul also got invited back!
- Study the word.
- To pray!
- To hear the Holy Spirit.
- …..and much more……
I just had to put this copy of a quote by James Henry Thornwell in because it really says it all as a preacher! From “Preaching and Preachers”, 1971, p99.
Let’s look at some learned scholars on the subject of the role of preaching:
Some thoughts from Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 1971.
- He states that the role of the preacher and preaching has a place of primacy and importance that has been belittled all over the world due to certain world views that have crept into our modern and contextual thinking. “Baldwinism” is one such example: – The suggestion that if a man is a great speaker, you cannot trust him… With this in mind he goes on to say that people inherently distrust preachers because they have been seen as showman in the past (called pulpiteers – people who make much noise but lack theological depth). The reaction to this was preachers who preferred “dialogue” or “rhetoric” or “quiet talks” or “papers”. It produced “apologetic” and “dialogue” type preaching, instead of heralding and proclaiming the gospel. Therefore the role of preachers has been much maligned.
- He states that preaching has a primary role in the church. Too much attention has been placed on taking care of mans needs. He feels that too much emphasis has been placed on mans circumstances and “sickness” and that this must be secondary to the primacy of preaching. The real trouble is that man is a rebel against God, and when his spiritual eyes and ears are opened by the truth of the Gospel, then his circumstances will improve, if not over time. Thus the church can get carried away by all kinds of things that can take a primacy over preaching the “healing gospel”.
- He talks about the role of the preacher “feeding” (with spiritual food) the congregation and not trying to pitch at their intellectual levels.
- He says, “It is not that the listener is in control, but that the preacher is to assess the condition and the position of the listener.” P143. Therefore the role of the preacher is to assess the capacity of the hearer. (p144)
Some thoughts from John R W Stott, I believe in Preaching, 1982.
- In Stott’s 2nd Chapter he explains the influence that contemporary society has had on perceptions of the role of preachers and preaching. Some interesting subjects to read into – but which cannot be detailed in a short study of this nature – is: a. The Anti – Authority Mood. Since the 2 major wars of the last century society has lost its faith in the “establishment” – the old accepted authorities like family, church, school, state etc. Stott says that the Christian response and especially the role of the preacher is to not be stampeded into abandoning preaching. Also not make the mistake of greater dogmatism and remember that we believe because God revealed it not that man invented it. There is much more that Stott reveals are contemporary objections to preaching.
- Preaching must increase the Christians confidence in the Gospel. The Church needs to hear a clear and confident message. P83.
- Preachers will need to penetrate the world of mass media. The congregations of today are TV conditioned. P75.
- The preacher’s role is to produce a clear unambiguous message. The preacher is therefore a bridge builder between cultures. Thus preaching is not just exegesis of a text, but the conveying of a God-given message to living people who need to hear it, in a way that they will understand it. P137. The preachers role is also to contextualise what he / she is preaching.
- We have to have courage as preachers and put courage in others! Stott quotes men like John Knox being a man who was able to in one hour put more life in the Scots than 500 trumpets continually blustering in their ears! The Earl of Morton said of John Knox at his grave, “Here lies one who never feared the face of man.” P305
- Stott also says that the role of preaching is to “comfort” and to “disturb”. Chad Walsh said, “The true function of a preacher is to disturb the comfortable and to comfort the disturbed,” and Stott, “Somehow to strike a balance.” P314. John Newton said that the point in all his preaching was, “to break a hard heart and to heal a broken heart.”
- One of the greatest needs of the preacher is his/her dependence on the Holy Spirit. 1 Thes 1v5. The role of the preacher Stott says is to acknowledge humbly our total dependence on the Holy Spirit (…for when I am weak, then I am strong….2 Cor 12v7). P331.
NCF and the role of Preaching:
- Over the last few years I believe that there has been a far greater emphasis and primacy placed on the role of the preacher and preaching in the life of our church.
- The standard of preaching has been a point of concerted effort. Given the increase in numbers at NCF recently there has been a further leaning on gifting and “specialists”.
- NCF has had prophecy to the effect that it will be a voice to the city and hopefully it has been and will be.
- The media and technology has played a huge role in how we relate and preach to the audience.
- We have now more than ever had to become “bridge builders” with our preaching into different cultural contexts within our local church due to increase and multi-sites.
- We have as an Eldership team looked at not preaching a watered down gospel.
- I think our preaching has become more “disturbing” in a good way (to quote Stott) and our altar calls in particular have become more courageous in content.
- I would love to see men amongst our number become “Buchans”, “Billy Grahams”, “Terry Virgo’s”, “Knox’s” and so many more.
- I believe that we are seeing the fruit of good preaching at NCF. People are coming to hear the gospel preached. People are staying, growing and leading. People are being saved.
- Are their more ways we can encourage and train preachers?
- I would love to see miracles / God’s power at work while the preacher is preaching.
- I would love to see more people saved after and during the preaching.
- Any other questions or statements!?
- The Bible
- Preaching and Preachers, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Hodder andStoughton, 1971.
- I believe in Preaching, John R W Stott, Hodder andStoughton, 1982.