My pastor friends will say to me as I write on preaching, “Physician, heal thyself!” I don’t even want to know what my enemies might say! But I want to provide some thoughts on this work in which I have been engaged for the past several decades.
Preaching is an incredibly daunting, challenging and difficult task. It takes skill and effort and practice. But it also is incredibly rewarding– not to mention that we pastors believe God has called and compelled us to preach.
Here are three basic and fundamental thoughts on preaching every preacher should understand.
1. You are the preacher God called. If God called you to preach, he called you to preach. He didn’t call you to become someone else who will then preach for you. He has called you to preach. While you can and should learn from other preachers, you must never try to be another preacher. God made you to be you. Be the best version of you, but be you.
God knew your strengths and weaknesses when he called you and he will use both if you will give them to him. He knew you were imperfect when he saved you and when he called you so no need to pretend. God called you for a reason. God will use your personality, abilities and background. Note that God uses both introverts and extroverts. He uses people of all different sorts. And God can use you if you will submit all you are to him and to his will.
Do note that you can never fully separate your message from you as a messenger. Living a godly, spirit filled life matters to the communication of your message as does living a hypocritical, self centered life. Everyone knows the preacher is an imperfect messenger. But the quality of your life will impact the communication of your preaching.
2. You are preaching God’s word. The preacher’s opinion can never substitute for God’s opinion. Our mandate is to proclaim the word of the Living God. We preach the bible as our text, our subject and our authority. Our foundation is not clever words or interesting anecdotes or persuasive appeals. We build our message on the solid truth of God’s revealed word.
While communication skills matter (see principle 3), our most basic task is to teach the bible in an accurate fashion. Nothing can replace that. Truth matters too much for us to make our primary focus anything else. Teach the truth.
Pastor friends, be sure you are teaching your people what God has to say. And, be sure you are teaching them to take personal responsibility for their spiritual growth by digging into the word for themselves. How you treat the word will go a long way in how they will treat the word. Preach the word.
3. You are preaching to real people. Preaching is not theoretical work. It is real communication of real truth to real people. The people who hear our messages have real needs and real problems and real issues. We must connect with them if communication is to happen. While the Holy Spirit does his work of conviction, he often uses weak vessels like us as instruments of that work.
Connecting with people means we are passionate about helping our hearers see why the word matters to them and to their lives. It means we are driven to speak in a way they can understand. It means we genuinely care about them and their walk with the Lord. We are not speaking above them or beneath them, but to them. We want our hearers to listen, understand and obey what God has to say.
Make the message clear. Make the message compelling. Make the message come alive to your hearers. Don’t take this most important message and make it sound boring or irrelevant or useless. What a tragedy to preach in such a way that people think the bible is no big deal! This message is the greatest of all deals! Preach in such a way that your hearers at least know you believe it is true and that they need to know this truth.
Preaching matters. Do it well!