Preaching. These days it is a loaded term. Some see it as a negative. For example, a person may say, “Don’t preach to me!” Usually this is in response to another’s nagging or haranguing about one’s beliefs or behavior. For others, preaching is an antiquated practice; an odd throwback to a bygone era; and an ineffective vehicle for communication. It seems like every few years we read predictions about the imminent death of preaching. Yet, it not only endures, but thrives. The fastest growing churches in North America give strong emphasis to the proclamation of the Bible. Proclamation – that’s what the New Testament word for “preach” means. A preacher is a public proclaimer or herald of God’s Word.
Why preach? First, there are numerous theological (or biblical) reasons. God chose preaching as the primary method to deliver his message. In the Old Testament, he used the prophets to proclaim warnings and/or blessings. In the New Testament, his messengers were the apostles (like Peter and John) and evangelists (like Timothy and Phillip). They presented the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Through the ages, God’s message was something that had to be delivered by his spokesmen. The prophet Jeremiah declared, “…his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” The apostle Paul wrote, “I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” Even Jesus said, “”The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news…”
The concept that preaching is a strange way to communicate is nothing new. It is as old as the New Testament. Some saw it as foolishness. Paul addressed this with the Corinthian church, “… since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe… For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
The second reason to preach is a practical one. It still works! The Scriptures are God-breathed (inspired) and are sharper than any double-edged sword. I cannot explain it fully, but the Holy Spirit works through the preacher and the Word of God to bring conviction, encouragement, rebuke, and teaching to the hearts and minds of the hearers. People are coming to know the Lord through the preaching of his Word. For two millennia, all over the world, the gospel – the good news about Jesus — has been shared through preaching. Paul’s words from the book of Romans still ring true:
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 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? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.