Preaching

Preaching and Worship Resources about Preaching

Preaching is the presentation of God's Word, particularly of the gospel within it, at a particular time to particular people by someone the church has authorized to do it.

In Scripture

Moses: "Moses said to the Lord, `O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.' Then the Lord said to him, `Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak' (Ex. 4:10-12).

Isaiah: "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn. . . . (Isa. 61:1-2; see also Luke 4:18-19).

Jonah: "Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, `Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me'" (Jonah 1:1-2).

Jesus Proclaims Good News: "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom" (Matt. 4:23).

Sent by Jesus "These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: `Go . . . to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come near.'" (Matt. 10:5-7).

The Great Commission "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20).

From God "Then Jesus answered them, `My teaching is not mine but his who sent me'" (John 7:16).

Power Through the Holy Spirit "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Peter: "Peter said to them, `Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' (Acts 2:38).

Paul and Barnabas: "Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, and there, with many others, they taught and proclaimed the word of the Lord" (Acts 15:35).

Romans 10:14 "But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?" (Rom. 10:14).

Saved Because of Belief "Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Cor. 1:21-23).

Purpose of Scripture "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).

Points to Ponder

Hearers of the Word Preachers are not just speakers of God's Word, but also hearers of it, and they are hearers before they are speakers. Preachers are addressed by God's Word just as much as the rest of us, and the power of a sermon derives in part from the fact that authentic preaching is personally committed preaching. The church's pulpit is never disinterested because the preacher, like the rest of us, has a stake in the truth of the gospel. In fact, the sermon's message ultimately comes only through, and not from, the preacher, and it centers on the same God who sends it. "For we do not proclaim ourselves," as Paul put it, "we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord" (2 Cor. 4:5). Faithful preaching centers where the gospel centers, namely, on the reconciling work of Jesus Christ, especially in his death and resurrection.

To Do What the Text Says Classically speaking, to preach a text is to do in other words what the text does. So, depending on the text, preachers might inform people one Sunday and challenge them the next. They might praise, or lament, or reassure, and if they preach the gospel they often reassure. If they have hold of a wise text, they might counsel us from the pulpit. A faithful preacher will sometimes provoke us if the text is provocative enough. If the text is in the interrogative mood, maybe our preacher will follow suit by turning a big part of the sermon into a repeated question. "Who proved to be neighbor to this man?" "Lord, why are you so far away?" "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"

Outfitting the Text In any case, the preacher's job is not just to repeat a text, but also to outfit it for the hearing of a congregation. Preachers not only do in other words what the text does, they also says in other words what the text says, dressing it up or down, shaping and coloring and amplifying it in such a way that when people hear the preached text they hear God's Word to them.

The Translator's Challenge Every week preachers face the translator's challenge. Like translators, preachers are trying to say in different words the same thing the text says without inadvertently saying a different thing in different words. Even if preachers challenge the text, they will want to know exactly what they're challenging. Because the Bible is a difficult ancient literature, because there is a hermeneutical gap between its world and ours, because the congregation's local context may affect the acoustics for preaching, the preacher is up against it just to move the text intact from its world to ours.

Shaping a Text But beyond accuracy, preachers are also called to shape a text for their congregation, to color it for them, to amplify and apply it. This can be most of the sermon. As a preacher, you have to answer a lot of implied questions. What did this text say? What does it say? Why does it matter? How is it surprising or alarming or assuring? What parallels or challenges to its message do we experience every day? Where is the good news of Jesus in this text?

Minor League Linguistics All this takes at least minor league linguistic skill. And we understand why. The preacher has to do all this exploring and interpreting and applying of a text in such a way that the text will "take," that it will engage listeners, that it will find traction with them. None of this matters if the Holy Spirit isn't blowing, but if the sermon has been intelligently designed to catch the Spirit's breath, and if the Spirit actually blows, the result is what we mean when we say that preaching in the church is eventful.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.