What was supposed to be central to the health and sanctity of the church is now out of season. I have seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears on numerous occasions: true Christian preaching is being neglected in the Church. I know what I’ve just said may be a bit far-fetched, but I say this while trying to be as nice and gentle as I possibly can, for I have experienced the famine and drought that is in land and amidst His body.I am frustrated, angered and pretty much pissed off at the state of preaching that we have allowed our North American church to fall into. All over the country, in numerous church pulpits and platforms, at conferences and retreats sanctioned by local churches and various para-church organizations, preaching is being forfeited in favor of “talks” where the so-called pastor or preacher yaps away for a short 30 minutes about the obvious state of Western culture, interspersed with countless pop-psychology references and statistics, and with a few biblical stories analogies mentioned as side remarks. Opening the Bible is something that is long forgotten, never mind reading it publicly or explaining Scripture or doing a biblical exposition. Listeners are somehow supposed to be edified and spurred on towards a new kind of Christianity from a new kind of preaching: non-preaching, powerless talking.The recent words of Dr. Albert Mohler testify to this:
Since preaching is itself a form of ???mental transport,??? any loss of confidence in the word leads to a loss of confidence in preaching. Preaching will cease to be Christian preaching if the preacher loses confidence in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God and in the power of the spoken word. The audacious claim of Christian preaching is that the faithful declaration of the Word of God, spoken through the preacher???s voice, is even more powerful than anything music or image can deliver.(Southern Seminary Magazine, “The State of Preaching Today“. Fall 2006: Volume 74, Number 3)
How are people supposed to be exhorted to live godly lives if the Word of God is not preached? How are our children supposed to be taught how to worship God if God is not shown precisely to be supremely valuable for who He is and what He has done from the Bible? How can anybody be saved, let alone sons and daughters of God be sanctified, without the proclamation of God’s redemptive work in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus from Scripture?
Preach the Word
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.–2 Timothy 4:1-5
It is without a doubt that the Word of God is the only thing possible to justify man and sanctify those whom God redeems. If God’s Word is not rightly preached by those whom He has called to be overseers, the health of the church and the life of the unsaved are at stake. What is needed in the land is a return to expository preaching: preaching which expounds what Scripture says in a particular passage, where the message of the biblical text is the message of the sermon. Genuine pastors and preachers of Jesus’ blood-bought church are thus responsible for carefully explaining the meaning of Scriptural text & context, and applying that very same text to the congregation’s context. As members of the body, we must exercise our God-given responsibility of holding our Elders accountable to their God-ordained pastoral priority: biblical, expositional preaching.
Power to Save
While this is something that is increasingly becoming unpopular, uncool and even unnecessary in many churches today, true church growth — namely, Gospel growth — cannot occur without an unswerving commitment to hearing Scripture, read and preached. If God’s Word is not preached in the form of exposition, then the Gospel of Jesus’ sinless life, substitutionary sacrifice and glorious resurrection is not proclaimed. And when the Gospel is not proclaimed, not a single soul can be saved! Let us be frank — “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14). The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe; and the Gospel is found nowhere else but in God’s Word, in the Holy Bible. Thus, it is of utmost importance that God’s Word is preached — whether people like it or not — in season, and out of season.
No Word, No Authority
I have seen it with my own eyes: sermon after sermon without the “pastor” even opening His Bible, but rather yapping away with his own personal opinion about this and that, saying that God’s Word should change us to become better Christians — all-the-while completely neglecting to do what he himself is saying. Such is not only failure to live up to the biblical qualifications of Elders (able to teach, namely His Word), but hypocrisy. For the listeners of the “sermon” can never be stirred up to love and good works if the Bible is not preached. The so-called preacher thus has absolutely no authority to reprove or rebuke anybody; all such authority comes only from the Word of God, through the mouth (and life-example) of the pastor-preacher. If what the preacher speaks is to have any authoritative rule, he must not preach a talk that is of his own opinion or full of worldly insights about the culture, but rather, he must saturate his words with His Words. While the problems of life may be rooted in the sin of the world, the solution is always found in His Word.
Fear for the Future
I am scared to death for the health of churches in North America and overseas. I have read reports of the ever-lovable prosperity gospel being exported to Africa; the disease of our land is infecting nations who are terribly impoverished. We cannot let this go on. While it should certainly be our priority to help end hunger and poverty in the developing world, it is also our priority to export the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though people will not endure sound biblical teaching, we must not tickle their itching ears and given in to what they superficially want. We must feed them with what they truly need: the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh. As David Peterson noted, “The preaching of the gospel is designed to bring about a consecrated lifestyle that will enable believers to glorify God, by word and deed, wherever and whenever they can” (Engaging with God, 188).If Christians are to be enabled to live consecrated lives that are pleasing to the Lord, we must bring back in to season what is central to the church: preaching the Word.
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.–Matthew 4:4