As a follower of Christ I herald a message of Good News instead of bad news. I preach more about heaven then hell. I’m more about constructing then I am deconstructing. I’m more about encouraging then I am about discouraging. I am more about advocating that protesting. I’m more pro then I am anti.
Following the pattern of Jesus…
He submitted to death to bring life.
He conquered hearts by washing feet.
He forgave His murderers and loved His enemies.
What is the chief end of preaching? I like to think it is this. It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence… I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him.
The Corinthians had put the messenger who had brought this gospel message to them under scrutiny. They had analyzed his approach, his speaking style, and even his personal characteristics and had concluded there was nothing at all remarkable about him. If his message was truly sent by God, shouldn’t there have been something more special about him? Paul’s response is that the believers were missing the point. It is exactly because the message is so important that the messenger is so weak. Just like a treasure in an earthen vessel, it is not the fragile, breakable, disposable vessel that matters most but the treasure it carries inside. If that were not the case, the vessel might think it was the treasure! The life of the disciple must be modeled on the gospel itself.
Jesus will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” not “well said.”
The current state of our preaching is driven by an admirable desire to show our age the relevance of the gospel. But our recent attempts have inadvertently turned that gospel into mere good advice—about sex, about social ethics, about how to live successfully. This either offends or bores our culture. A renewed focus on the Cross, articulated in a culturally intelligent way, is the only way forward. Some will be scandalized by it, others will call it foolishness, and yet some will cling to it as salvation. But at least everyone will be talking about that which is truly First and Last.
We must tell stories the way God does, stories in which a sister must float her little brother on a river with nothing but a basket between him and the crocodiles. Stories in which a king is a coward, and a shepherd boy steps forward to face the giant. Stories with fiery serpents and leviathans and sermons in whirlwinds. Stories in which murderers are blinded on donkeys and become heroes. Stories with dens of lions and fiery furnaces and lone prophets laughing at kings and priests and demons. Stories with heads on platters. Stories with courage and crosses and redemption. Stories with resurrections.
There is all the difference in the world between preaching merely from human understanding and energy, and preaching in the conscious smile of God.
Regarding women evangelists, I was asked why I allowed women to preach the Gospel and replied, ‘if I as a man would drown in a river, I wouldn’t care if a woman or a man threw me a lifeline.’ Evangelism is an emergency-operation and we are all called to engage in it. Rather win a soul than win an argument.
The teaching of the gospel itself, and of the way of life which flows from it, must not be a muddled, rambling thing, going this way and that over all kinds of complex issues. It must go straight to the point and make it clearly, so that the young Christians who so badly need building up in their faith may learn the deep, rich, basic elements of Christian teaching.
A wise pastor once told me we tend to overestimate what one sermon will do but underestimate what 10 years of faithful preaching will do. When our people are confronted again and again with the message of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for the salvation of sinners, we can trust that God will use it to open blind eyes, unstop deaf ears, bring dead hearts to life, and transform his people from one degree of glory to another.