Just today I read another blog by someone who has determined that preaching is no longer effective, needed or interesting. This opinion is nothing new. I remember a well known theologian who declared that since there was no regular preaching in New Testament churches after they were established then we should stop the practice and teach only. Then some point to Paul’s qualifications of an overseer in 2 Timothy 3 and note that only teaching is mentioned and not preaching as important in that ministry role.
I have preached and pastored for forty-one years and counting and I would offer the following observations.
1. The style of preaching has changed over the years. Culture is different, attention spans are shorter, and worship services seemed more rushed, calculated, and planned that ever. Preachers change with the times but the task of preaching does not.
2. Many people reach adulthood without ever hearing much preaching. Children are often excluded from worship services while attending children’s church or Sunday School. Youth often come to church and church events but do not attend the worship services their parents attend.
3. Many people attend church for years without hearing a true sermon. They hear lectures, presentations, and watch performances but never hear a true exposition of a passage of scripture.
4. Many pastors have never been trained to preach. In fact many have never been trained or mentored or discipled at all.
Preaching is a skill but it is more than simply a skill. It is an event where one person (the preacher) delivers truth with passion and conviction to persons with a willingness to hear, understand and live out what they receive. It is an event where God speaks through a called and annointed servant to His people. Preaching motivates, excites and moves people. Teaching informs, directs and strengthens people. One drives truth to the heart, emotions and the mind while the other drives truth to the mind, heart and life. They have very similar objectives and results but are very different in how those objectives and results are gained.
When preachers do well the hearer enters into the historical narrative and experiences what the original characters experienced and learn the same truths the original characters learned. The eat the dust of the exodus, and hear the cry of David the Psalmist. They tremble before the Cross of Christ and marvel at the empty tomb. They are breathless as they look into Hell and speechless as the see a glimpse of Heaven. Teaching delivers the same facts but never has quite the same effect.
I think I know what the fellow was trying to do when he called for more creative teaching on Sunday mornings. He just doesn’t understand preaching. I hope he experiences some on a Sunday morning real soon.