The Case for Preaching (part 1)January 5, 2007
We’ve all heard the criticisms. From the subtle jibe, “the preacher went on a bit this morning” (which persists no matter how short the sermon gets) to the blatant diatrabe, “preaching is an outdated form of communication.”
It seems that despite all the advances in 21st century education, attention spans are shorter than ever. Moreover, in an image conscious culture people cannot deal with an onslaught of words.
Apparently. But this blog – and an increasing number of evangelicals – takes a different view. We believe on the basis of Scripture that there remains a place for preaching. A pre-eminent place.
So over the next four Friday’s (see blog format) I’d like us to freshly consider the grounds for preaching’s priority. Most importantly, we’ll consider some of the biblical data that supports preaching in parts two and three. I hope these reflections might win a few converts to preaching’s importance. May they also encourage those who feel unduly threatened by that anti-preaching sentiment which often lurks in the evangelical shadows.
Today, let me simply offer some quotes from across the span of church history in favour of preaching. Chew them over. Tell me if you think they are overstated or underrated.
“Only one means and one way to cure has been given us….and that is the teaching of the Word. This is the best instrument, this the best diet and climate; this one method must be used and without it nothing else will avail.” (John Chrysostom)
“The highest service that men may attain on earth is to preach the Word of God. The Church is honoured most by the preaching of the Word of God, and hence this is the best service that priests may render to God.” (John Wycliffe)
“I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And when, while I slept, or drank Wittenberge beer with my Philip and my Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a Prince or Emperor inflicted such a damage upon it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.” (Martin Luther -on the Reformation)
“Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached from the heart and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s instruction, there, it is not to be doubted, a Church of God exists.” (John Calvin)
“In every age of Christianity, since John the Baptist drew crowds in the desert, there has been no great religious movement, no restoration of Scripture truth, and reanimation of genuine piety, without new power in preaching, both as cause and effect.” (John Broadus)
“I fear none of us apprehend as we ought to do the value of the preacher’s office. Our young men do not gird themselves for it with the spirit of those who are on the eve of a great conflict; nor do they prepare as those who are to lay hands upon the springs of the mightiest passions, and stir up to their depths the ocean of human feelings. Where this estimate of the work prevails, men even of inferior training accomplish much….The pulpit will still remain the grand means of effecting the mass of men. It is God’s own method, and he will honour it…In every age, great reformers have been preachers.” (James W Alexander)
“The supreme work of the Christian minister is the work of preaching. This is a day in which one of our great perils is that of doing a thousand little things to the neglect of the one thing, which is preaching.” (G Campbell Morgan)
“…to me the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. If you want something in addition, I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.” (Lloyd Jones)
“I confess to being…an impenitent believer in the indispensable necessity of preaching both for evangelism and for the healthy growth of the Church. The contemporary situation makes preaching more difficult; it does not make it less necessary.” (John Stott)
“Regardless of what new directives and emphases are periodically offered, that which is needed above everything else to make the Church more viable, authentic, and effective, is a new declaration of the Scriptures with a new purpose, passion and power.” (Walter Kaiser)
“Preaching the Word of God, teaching the Word of God is a critical function in the life of the church. And, of course, we live in a time when preaching is being depreciated and it is being set aside in favor of other forms of communication. But the essential reality for the church, that which basically dictates its strength or weakness, is the character of its preaching and teaching. You show me a church where there is strong biblical preaching and teaching, and I will show you strong people and strong ministry. You show me a church where there is weak biblical preaching and I will show you a church with weak people and weak ministry. That’s just how it goes because the Word of God is the food that makes believers mature and strong.” (John MacArthur)
“If we hope to see genuine revival and reformation, there must be a return of power to the pulpit. Spirit-anointed preaching is the great need of the day. Let us labor to reestablish its priority in our churches. And let us pray for those whose job it is to fulfill the holy calling of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit. May God grant us a revival of true preaching.” (Tom Ascol)
“That is my longing for our day—and for you. That God would raise up thousands of broken-hearted, Bible-saturated preachers who are dominated by a sense of the greatness and the majesty and the holiness of God, revealed in the gospel of Christ crucified and risen and reigning with absolute authority over every nation and every army and every false religion and every terrorist and every tsunami and every cancer cell, and every galaxy in the universe.” (John Piper)
Finally, for a brief history of preaching, have a scan of this interesting article.