There are so many attitudes to preaching in today’s church, sometimes the role of preaching is downplayed and in other circles the Church is turned into a preaching station. The scripture is full of examples of preaching and obviously it is important to the purposes of God. So why don’t we see its relevance to us today?
One of the things that really concerns me is that we tend to use the word worship only to apply to the time we are praising God instead of seeing that the sermon is a vital part of worship. In the sermon we listen to the word of God. It is this aspect of listening to God that should be uppermost in our minds when we hear a sermon preached. I wonder what would happen if we all asked the Lord to help us to hear what he is saying to us through the sermon, I suspect our attitude to the preaching of the word of God would change.
Sometimes in a hunger for wanting to see the Holy Spirit work in miracles, signs and wonders, we don’t see the preaching as very important. In the Bible time after time the miraculous takes place in the context of preaching. Jesus when he preached the Sermon on the Mount followed this by a healing ministry. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost leads to a sermon by which 3000 people come to faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul says to the Roman Church,
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”(Romans 10:14-15)
Here we see the vital place for preaching in evangelism, just as in the New Testament days we need to see that preaching is central to the evangelistic task. when we look at any of the great moves of God in history we see how he used preachers. We can think of well known people such as Wesley,Spurgeon and Billy Graham but when we look closely at church history we see that in every revival there has been a great number of preachers whose names have never made the history books.
Preaching is also vital for the health of the church, that is why Paul could tell the Ephesian elders,
For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:27-28)
Here Paul shows that he has taught the whole will of God and that he wants the Ephesian elders to follow him in this. He takes seriously God’s call to be a shepherd of God’s flock,for him this involved teaching the word faithfully. Perhaps the best way to achieve this aim is to be an expository preacher, preaching through whole books of the Bible. This prevents the preacher from just preaching his favourite themes and forces him or her to preach from passages that we would rather leave alone. Paul’s commissioning of Timothy shows how he explained the importance of preaching to the young minister,
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage —with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. ( 2 Timothy 4:1-5)
The solemnity of this commission highlights the importance of preaching for the church. In our lives as disciples of Christ we need to be equipped to live for him and the best way for that is by getting to know the word of God. God in his grace has called people to preach his word, so that we can grow in grace and our knowledge of our great Saviour Jesus Christ.
We should be thankful to God for this amazing gift that he has given us and as we go to church each Sunday let us say “speak Lord for your servant is listening” I am convinced that if we take this attitude to the preached word, we will grow in grace. As we grow as Christian people and the Church of God we will better equipped for serving his purposes in our generation.