Preaching these days "misunderestimated." These days I read fairly regularly that preaching is too long, or is nice but unnecessary. Others, like Albert Mohler makes so much of preaching, they almost go too far:
"...preaching is the central component of Christian worship. But how could it be otherwise? For it is primarily through the preaching of Scripture that we come to a true vision of the living God, recognize our own sinfulness, hear the declaration of redemption, and are called to a response of faith, repentance, and service."
Mohler makes quite clear that preaching's authority and importance lies in the power of God's Word, not simply the act of preaching--which is why it's so important. I, like Mohler, would agree that much preaching today is in need of renewal. Much of what is called "preaching" today isn't actually preaching, either because it has little biblical foundation or Gospel content. Mohler writes:
"...we should define exactly what we mean when we say “preach.” What we mean is, very simply, reading the text and explaining it—reproving, rebuking, exhorting, and patiently teaching directly from the text of Scripture. If you are not doing that, then you are not preaching."
If that's what we're doing (and I agree that we are), then we need to pay attention to it. Some preaching has these components but makes little effort to insure people can understand what's being said in a way that captivates and convicts the heart.
At a practical level, preaching is vital to the long-term spiritual welfare of the church. Preaching provides nourishment, exhortation and biblical instruction that shapes people spiritually over time. It's also quite important in reaching those who are searching for God and find their way into the church for that Sunday.
Preachers should work hard to improve as exegetes, theologians and communicators. They should stay anchored to the God of the Scriptures, and avoid some of today's pitfalls:
- Techno-preaching: preaching that overdoses on the use of technology, and starves for lack of clarity.
- MySpace-preaching: preaching that tries to be relevant so hard that it's irrelevant. It's so "timely," it's irrelevant by the time it's finished.
- Politi-preaching: preaching that is a political speech with some Scriptures thrown in, rather than a biblical sermon with occasional political applications. This one is huge today.
- Seminary-preaching: Preaching communicated in a way that makes the preacher sound smart but is at an "intellectual level" that leaves everyone wondering what in the world the preacher is talking about. By all means, stretch people intellectually, but know the limits and check your motives as you do.
- Narcissi-preaching: preaching that focuses exclusively on what God wants for "your" life, rather than "our lives," the Church, or the Kingdom.
All of these and more have the effect of shaping people in a particular way over time. It also, for better or worse, shapes the view of what God and the Church are about in the minds and hearts of searchers. It's really, really important.
No one is perfect in the pulpit. I'm certainly not. However, it's vital that we strive to be all God wants us to be in this area. Much of today's critique of preaching has less to do with the insufficiency of biblical preaching and much to do with the insufficiency of preachers. Preachers will always be insufficient, which is why we need to stay anchored to the Scriptures first. Then, let's work on communicating it's altogether beautiful content in a way that captivates and convicts the minds and hearts of the hearers.
If preaching in your church is anemic or thin...it matters. If preaching is both meaty and delicious--your church will be blessed.