"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season" (2
Introduction Before we discuss preaching as a Christian activity we
must ask the question, "Is preaching relevant in today's world?" Our
answer to this question should help preachers and congregations
appreciate preaching to be one of God's ways of speaking and
ministering to people.
1. AN INTRODUCTION TO PREACHING
Homiletics is the science of preaching. It is the study of the
principles that underlie effective preaching. Homiletics investigates
the elements that contribute the making of a good sermon. Klaas Runia
comments: "We have to take [sermons] seriously for what they really
are: human attempts to communicate the gospel. Homiletics is quite
simply the study of this kind of communication, and as a kind of
communication it has to be tested by the laws of the science of
communication" (The Sermon Under Attack).
Objections to homiletics
Homiletics has been objected to for a number of reasons. It is
sometimes said that methodology rules out the guidance and inspiration
of the Holy Spirit. Some believe that concentration on the sermon and
its delivery gives undue importance to the sermon. Views like this must
be faced and evaluated.
Is preaching out of date?
Clyde Reid claims: "Preaching does not communicate" (The Empty Pulpit).
We have to admit that some boring sermons support this observation!
Those who do not believe the Bible to be God's Word question the value
of preaching. So do those who want to place a social gospel before a
Are evangelicals minimising
Disbelief in sermons, giving praise and worship a primary place,
replacing preaching with discussion groups, drama and epilogues are
some of the things that may marginalise the preached Word.
2. CHRISTIANITY IS A PREACHING MOVEMENT
Scripture and Church history confirm the fact that the
preaching of the Word accompanies every move of God (see Acts 2:41;
4:4; 6:7; 11:1; 19:20).
Preaching in the New Testament
The New Testament (NT) opens with the preaching of John the Baptist and
Jesus. The Great Commission contains the mandate to preach the good
news to all creation (Mk.16:15). Preaching was central to the life of
the NT Church. This is emphasised by the many words used for preaching
in the NT.
Some biblical terms used of
The major NT Greek terms for preaching are:
'Preaching' (euangelizesthai, to evangelise) is used of
preaching the gospel (e.g., Rom.1:15).
'Proclaiming' (kėrussein, to proclaim or herald) has a
royal feel about it (e.g., Acts 8:5).
'Witnessing' (marturein, to witness) includes apostolic
attestation (1 Cor.15:15).
'Teaching' (didaskein, to teach) involves moral and
spiritual instruction (e.g., Rom.12:7).
The importance of the preached
The rendering of 1 Corinthians 1:21 in the Authorised Version of the
Bible led many in the past to place an incorrect emphases on preaching
itself. Obviously it is God's message that saves and ministers - and
not its mode of delivery. "God was pleased through the foolishness of
what was preached to save" (NIV).
3. PREACHING AND THE PREACHER
Luke makes the point in the Acts that Christ continued (and
continues) his mission through his people, the Church. God's method is
people - people called to preach the Word and share Christ.
What is the NT picture of the preacher? He or she is someone called by
the Lord (Jn.15:16), empowered by him (Acts 1:8), and sent by him (Acts
9:15; Rom.10:15). We must know this in our hearts. Without a sense of
vocation our preaching will be unconvincing.
The preaching of the gospel is divinely ordained! Jesus commanded: "Go
into all the world and preach the good news to all creation"
(Mk.16:15). Klaas Runia indicates: "True preaching is an event. Paul
calls the gospel a 'power unto salvation' (Rom.1:16). When the gospel
is preached, something happens. Preaching announces the love of God
through Christ to men". Preaching should be aggressive - it is true
We must lay down a few basic principles for preaching. Preaching should
Scripture-based. We are called to preach the Word (1
Tim.4:2). So, the
sermon should be expository, using a text or Bible portion.
Structured. Powerful sermons have pointed aims. A sermon
should have a commencement, a continuation and a conclusion.
Spirit-inspired. We must seek to deliver God-given,
sermons. Well prepared sermons can die in the pulpit without the Lord's
presence. See Zech.4:6.
Preachers must have a burden for the Word they preach, and a passion
for those they preach to. God's prophetic word was often a 'burden' to
the Old Testament (OT) prophets and to the NT apostles (consider
Isa.13:1; 1 Cor.9:16,17).
As with the Lord Jesus, the preacher's ability must be found in the
Holy Spirit, and their authority should find its source in the written
Word (Lk.4:18; 1 Pet.1:12). The minister of the new covenant must
minister life (1 Cor.2:4; 2 Cor.3:6). We must expect the Lord to work
as we preach the Word (Mk.16:15-20; Acts 10:44). We should exercise
faith as we preach.
4. THE DYNAMIC NATURE OF PREACHING
Re-evaluate what you think about preaching - and take your
time to do this. There is a mysterious element in preaching which
involves the preacher (and his or her personality), the sermon
(including the Scriptures), the Holy Spirit, the congregation, and the
circumstances. Most of us will have sensed the Lord's presence and
living voice through preaching. Preaching should be a dynamic communal
event. To quote Klaas Runia again:
"No sermon, whatever its form, will be really dialogical when it takes
the congregation with its joys and sorrows, its questions and doubts,
its aspirations and frustrations seriously, by letting the light of
God's redemptive Word shine upon them. Preaching that takes account of
both the message of the text and the reactions of the congregations and
that tries to incorporate reactions into the exposition of the text
will be truly biblical preaching and therefore also relevant preaching"
(The Sermon Under Attack).
Recognition of the communal nature of the sermon should lead us to
educate our congregations to be proactive listeners. For a start, those
who appreciate the Bible as God's Word should listen to its exposition
with open Bibles (see Acts 17:11). Further, a sermon should not be a