Every Sunday when churches gather for worship, there’s likely to be a message preached from scripture. Maybe you’ll be the one doing the preaching or maybe you’ll be one of the listeners. Either way, we all are involved in this event called preaching. In fact, just as necessary as preaching is, so also is our involvement.
Preaching is Powerful
It might be tempting to dismiss the importance of preaching but don’t. Like singing and praying, preaching has always been a practice of the church but that alone is not the only reason for preaching.
Preaching is powerful because it is the proclamation of the word of God. According to Hebrews 4:12, “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…” (NRSV). When the word of God is faithfully proclaimed it is able to convict, encourage, and inspire us to walk in the way of God as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. As a minister, I have witnessed the changes in people, including myself, because the word of God was preached.
To be clear, the power of preaching does not rest upon any human ability. Before Jesus was crucified, he promised that his Father in heaven would send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would convict and testify to the truth (Jn 16:7-15). Likewise, the Apostle Paul taught the Christians in Corinth that the church has received the Holy Spirit so that it may have understanding (1 Cor 2:12). So the power of preaching, which teaches us and calls us to live more deeply and faithfully in the way of God, is the work of the Holy Spirit living among us as the church.
Preparation Is Necessary
There’s a human element to preaching that cannot be overlooked or underestimated. First of all, there is the preparation of the one who will preach the word. Whoever preaches the word has the responsibility of preparing for that message through prayer and study. Occasionally I’ll hear someone say that this is unnecessary, suggesting that preparation stifles the Holy Spirit. They’re wrong! In fact, most of the time this is just a veiled excuse for laziness.
Those who think preparation is unnecessary for preaching the word of God might suggest that it gets in the way of the Holy Spirit working. That is absolute nonsense! If the Holy Spirit works during the preaching of God’s word, which it does, then he is also able to work in preparation for a message.
Yet there’s more to the human element than just the preparation of the preacher. There’s the part of the church as well. Allow me to explain…
Preparing Our Eyes and Ears
Have you ever wondered why, as Jesus preached and did many miracles, some believed while others did not? I have and having spent nearly the last ten years of my life preaching every Sunday for a church, I believe the difference has to do with our eyes and ears.
In Mark chapter 4 Jesus told a parable about sowing seed. In this parable he likened people to soil, some of which was good soil for planting seed while other people were like bad soil unfit for seed. In the middle of that parable, Jesus made a very difficult reference to people seeing but not seeing and hearing but not hearing (v. 12). I’m not so much interested here in how that statement has been understood exegetically in the Gospel of Mark. I mention it in order to point out the fact that we all have eyes and ears and yet it’s possible that we remain blind and deaf.
So what does this have to do with preaching?
Typically before I begin to preach, I start with a prayer. I pray for God to pour upon me the gift of preaching through his Spirit. I do so because even though I have spent thorough time in preparation for the message I will preach, I don’t want to rely on my own power in preaching. But I also pray that God will grant the church I serve the eyes to see and the hears to hear. I pray for this so that through the preaching of God’s word, the Spirit may bring an understanding that calls the church into a deeper and more faithful life together in Christ.
Now knowing that your church will gather in worship this Sunday and, among other things, hear the word of God proclaimed, WHAT WILL YOU PRAY FOR?