A Priority Trust: Committed To Better Preaching In 2019

Institutions become dilapidated when discontinuity between their importance and our commitment to them is allowed to exist. Few enterprises are marked with more pervasive mediocrity than preaching.  This is dreadful.  The apostle Paul told Titus that God has “manifested his word through preaching which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour” (Tit. 1:3).  The incomprehensibly important truth of “eternal life” which God promised before the world began, is made known to the world, through preaching.

It is hardly possible to overrate the priority of preaching God’s word.  It is God’s plan for saving sinners (1 Cor. 1:17-21; Rom. 10:14-17), the means for equipping the saints (Ep. 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 4:1-3), and the centerpiece of corporate worship in this age (Acts 2:41-42; 1 Cor. 14:1-3, 23-25).  John Broadus said, “But alas! How difficult it is to preach well!  How small a proportion of the sermons heard weekly throughout the world are really good.”  While the assessment of John Broadus rings true, it is unnecessary.  Erasmus famously said, “If elephants can be trained to dance, lions to play and leopards to hunt, surely preachers can be taught to preach!”  If it is true that good preaching is so scarce and yet so achievable, why the scarcity?

  1. Good preaching is work.  

The pastor’s responsibility is more demanding than what may be accomplished in a few brief hours, polishing an assortment of stories and syllogisms.  Preaching that lays open the word of God is laborious.  It involves more than clever wordplay and creative alliteration.  Ecclesiastes 12:12 says, “…much study is a weariness of the flesh” and 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

  1. Honest self-analysis is painful.

What preacher wants to discover egregious flaws in his content and delivery?  Some truths are just too much to bear.  Perhaps a better way of seeing this would be to rejoice that as long as we are alive, we have the opportunity to improve our craft.  We can dig deeper, work harder, learn more and increase our passion for doing so.  When we are honest with ourselves, we can see many ways that our preaching could improve.

  1. The altered the objective and therefore the process.

It is so easy to get lost in the effort to please men.  While attendance numbers and statistical metrics should not be what motivates the preacher of God’s word, it is almost impossible to avoid the temptation to measure one’s success with numbers.  The natural response to this struggle is to preach to entertain and woo instead of edify, exhort and warn.  To preach the word of God is our primary duty as pastors.  Without biblical preaching, whatever we are winning people “to” is not what we are called to extol.

  1. Bad examples prevail.

In a little book entitled, How to Improve Your Preaching (1945), Bob Jones, Jr. said, “People who write books on etiquette have my sympathy.  They must - poor creatures - find little pleasure at a dinner party…When one presumes to set down rules of practice in any art…he immediately becomes the object of observation when he, himself, attempts to practice it…”  No one should seek to become so critical of epidemic insipidity in the pulpit that he cannot be encouraged by the simplest and most sincere exhortations from good men.  Even in our most gracious analysis, there is an abundance of absolute nonsense in preaching these days.  Foolishness in the pulpit is no new thing, for Spurgeon said, “I have frequently said of myself that I would not go across the road to hear myself preach, but I will venture to say of certain brethren that I would even go across the road in the other direction not to hear them preach.  Some sermons and prayers lend a color of support to the theory of Dr. William Hammond, that the brain is not absolutely essential to life” (An All-Around Ministry, by Charles Spurgeon, pp. 316-317).

  1. We prioritize practical application over sound doctrine and thorough exposition.

Application is helpful as far as it goes; however, a passage carefully explained (exposit = explain; expound = explain) will contain much implicit application.  When the meat and meaning of a text is overlooked for agenda-driven practicality, the discourse has become something other than biblical preaching.  Coaching, counseling, advising, cajoling or motivating it may be, but biblical preaching it is not when we have failed to communicate the word of God.

Preaching demonstrates in its form and function the vital truth that God has spoken and is speaking to man.  God speaks through scripture, and; the medium of preaching reminds us of this when accomplished faithfully.  Consequently, to stand with God’s word open and preach could be the most urgent of all Christian responsibilities.  It is an irreplaceable act of the highest order.  

To preach; therefore, is something specific.  It is clear what preaching is and is not.  To preach is to speak God’s word to an individual or group of listeners so that they understand it in the way in which God intended.  Sounds simple, but it is not.  It is laborious always, frequently complex and seldom without a direct challenge to our presuppositions.  

In 2019, with God’s help, I would love to preach with a more meaningful commitment to the trust that God has bestowed upon me.  I want to improve.  I long to preach well.  Here are two ways that I intend to approach this objective:

By laboring in a text of scripture every week.  Imagine the profit a local church would enjoy if their pastor toiled weekly to expound scripture to them with care.  It can be shocking to examine what we are doing in the pulpit.  Analyze some of your sermons.  Remove the jokes, long stories, rants, politics, and personal opinions and notice how short the sermons become.  Take some of the time back and preach God’s word to the people.  In a decade you could effectively cover large portions of God’s word where families will be influenced by truth instead of belligerence and silliness.

Preach with the glory of God and the good of others in mind - a much nobler motive than performing for laughs or admiration.  God is exalted when His word is communicated in clarion presentations of boldness and conviction.  Speak the truth in love.  Know that when the hearers of God’s word believe it, His word will change them.  What an amazing privilege!  What a vital trust!

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  1. Very helpful, encouraging, and challenging. Broadus spoke of the young preacher's temptation to emulate what draws a crowd motivated by a desire to be heard so that he might do more good to more people. It was a caution to preach the word.