“I get so frustrated. I stand before a handful of people Sunday after Sunday, telling them about spiritual things, when what they’re really concerned about is what they’ll be doing at work Monday morning, or the football game that afternoon, or even getting to the cafeteria to be first in line if I’ll quit preaching on time. What am I doing there anyway?”
He was pastor of a small church, but his words can be echoed by preachers in churches large and small, rural and urban. Rare is the preacher who has not cried out, if only in thought: What am I doing here anyway? Does what I do on Sunday morning really matter?
It’s easy to question the value of our preaching, especially in the cold reality of Monday morning. The pews are empty, the handshakes are over for another week, and we are left with the nagging question: what difference did it make?
The promise of God is that preaching can and does make a difference. Ours is the divine task of bringing God to mind and His Word to bear in a world that seems frantic to ignore Him at every turn.
John Killinger reminds us that “talking about God is more important than anything else we can do for people. Where else in the world will they hear about God?” (Fundamentals of Preaching, p. 13)
In an age in which time is more and more limited and valuable, why do millions return to our sanctuaries week after week to listen to sermons? Though there are multiplied reasons, for many it is the desire to hear an authentic word from God. In lives that are torn by stress, puzzled by ethical questions, filled with anxiety about the future, they come to you as God’s messenger to be reminded that their lives matter, that God cares, that there is hope. They come, as the Greeks came to Philip, saying, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”
One young preacher expressed feelings of frustration about his place in the pulpit. He wrote: “I wish I did not hate preaching so much, but the degradation of being a Brighton preacher is almost intolerable … the pulpit has lost its place.”
The writer was F. W. Robertson, who — within a few years of his premature death in 1853 — was being called one of England’s greatest preachers. Perhaps more important than the accolades of historians are the words of one of his church members:
“I cannot describe … the strange sensation, during his sermon of union with him and communion with one another which filled us as he spoke … Nor can I describe the sense we had of a higher Presence with us as he spoke — the sacred awe which filled our hearts — the hushed stillness in which the smallest sound was startling — the calm eagerness of men who listened as if waiting for a word of revelation to resolve the doubt or to heal the sorrow of a life.” (Life and Letters of Frederick W. Robertson, Vol. II, p. 270)
Like Robertson, we may never understand the full impact of our work; God does not promise that. He does call us to faithfully proclaim His Word, and promises that it “will not return void.” That is enough.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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