But you might ask, "Why then do we see lots of preaching at churches, yet also see a lot of apathetic pew sitters, or declining church attendance? Isn't it time to dump preaching and try something that works?"
What I am offering is an apology for preaching and I'll highlight the poor logic of the anti-preaching idea. My aim is to encourage you to take the Sunday sermon seriously and be an agent of change to make it a focus in your own life as well as your church's life.
Experienced preacher David Cook (former head of Sydney Mission and Bible College) explains, "God has spoken, His word is perfectly suited to our nation and it is exactly what we need to hear. No other word is God breathed but the Bible."
What is real preaching? Answer: Look at Jesus' example
You may have heard many different preachers: some good, others not so good. But the greatest preacher was Jesus. People were amazed at His teaching because He spoke as one who had authority (Mark 1 verses 21-27). This is because He is the author of Scripture (John 1:1-14) and all Scripture is about Him (Luke 24 verses 25-27; John 20 verse 30).
So if we want to change lives we should preach about Jesus and use His template. That means Bible-based preaching (for some thoughts read au.christiantoday.com )
So what was Jesus' view of the Bible and preaching? As David Cook explained, God wants Himself to be known and He has done this through the Bible. That is why the Bible is "God breathed" (2 Timothy 3 verse 16). The whole storyline of the Bible is God's plan to rescue us from the penalty of sin. That plan finds its fulfillment in Jesus (Matthew 1 verse 21). The Old Testament prepares for Jesus' arrival. The New Testament explains the fulfillment of these and points forward to the second coming of Jesus. When Jesus preached, this was the message He told. Some Bible examples of real preaching:
Example 1. Jesus walks into the synagogue (Luke 4 verses16-21). He reads a passage of the Old Testament and then explains that passage is about Him and His plan.
Example 2. Peter preaches at Pentecost. He starts by explaining the Old Testament promises that are now fulfilled in Jesus (Acts 2 verses 14-41). Notice there is a call to action as they ask "What should we do?" (Acts 2 verse 37). Even the often cited topic of speaking in tongues finds its completion in this same theme.
Example 3. Paul's letter to the Romans explains that it is this good news proclaimed about Jesus (revealed in the Bible) that is the power to save (Romans 1 verse 16).
So when people say, "get rid of preaching, it doesn't work," the first question to ask is, "What is real preaching?" If it doesn't explain the Bible's good news of Jesus then perhaps it is time to get rid of it and replace it with Jesus' template.
Preaching is explaining the Bible's (the Old and New Testaments) good news about Jesus. It should give a challenge to turn and trust in Him. If this is not a constant in the preaching you hear then ask "why?" It is the template Jesus used to preach.
Who says preaching "has to work?"
Some say, "Dump the sermon and try something that works!" But who says it has to work? The assumption made is that the words should magically motivate people into action. Yet look at the record of the greatest preacher, Jesus. He and His words were rejected by the majority (John 1 verses 10-11).
His teaching and miracles drew a crowd but did not transform everyone who heard it (Mark 6 verses 51-52; 7 verses 17-18). In some cases, Jesus' words hardened hearts (Matthew 21 verses 33-46). The poor logic is that preaching should cause a mass transformation in everyone who hears. So, does that mean Jesus didn't preach well enough or He should have tried something different?
No, Jesus understood what real preaching was (and is). Preaching divides. The announcement that Jesus' Kingdom had come was good news to some and rejected by others (Luke 10 verses 8-12).
When a sermon is given, it is actually the Holy Spirit who is at work in people's hearts. The Spirit works with the Bible to achieve His goal (John 16 verses 7-11). These are difficult passages and concepts, but the point is that preaching is not a magical tonic that immediately drives people into faith and action (although the Spirit can and does do this). God's Word divides and preaching helps make this clear.
Preaching matters. Preaching explains the Bible's message of salvation. It is the way the Holy Spirit stirs the heart of the hearer. Encourage your pastors in their preaching.
Experienced preacher, John Stott (in "Believe in Preaching") explains, "Nothing is better calculated to restore health and vitality to the church or to lead its members into maturity in Christ than a recovery of true, biblical, contemporary preaching."
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at insert