The beautiful brochure in the mail invited me to a seminar on technology which would communicate effectively to a visually oriented congregation. I considered finding two hundred dollars for registration, but would we mature better or minister more effectively with more multimedia techniques? Is being on the cutting edge of the latest available visual appeal necessary?
The four color brochure forced me to ask myself what works for preaching ministry in a high-tech world. What are the stones that sharpen sermons so that, like a sword with a keen edge, they penetrate private worlds? Why preach?
I preach because preaching is a divine encounter
Preaching is a divine encounter that confronts the preacher with the immensity of God’s Word. The weight of God’s Word will always feel too big for me. When I recently preached from Romans chapters seven and eight, I felt that I had not mastered the texts. They are so rich that they challenge my intellectual and emotional capacity. As I admitted that I felt inadequate for the task, I realized that the point is to let the text master me, though I may not master the text.
When I preach, I aim to experience the presence of the Lord even when I am preaching over my head. When I preach a truth that is beyond my grasp, I preach it to believe it, experience it and hopefully, understand it.
On a trip to the eastern states many years ago, I listened to a pastor preach a very simple message that impacted me profoundly because it was obvious that he had submitted his own life to the Word he preached.
During my teen years, one of my pastors was very transparent about his struggles with God. By the time he came to the pulpit, he had worn the sermon and I could see his life through it. I could believe that God was there for me too in my struggles.
Preaching is a divine encounter that is verdict oriented. It is a confrontation that demands decision, beginning with my own decision to believe and obey. Pastors in my city are occasionally asked to preach at a local nursing home. When my turn came around, I was feeling overloaded with responsibilities and complained to the Lord that I did not have time to preach to a nursing home audience, some of whom didn’t know I was there. At the close of the service, after I had preached on the reality of God’s presence with each of us, I led them in the hymn, “My Jesus, I Love Thee.”
The irony of what I was singing struck me about the time I came to the line, “If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now.” At that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to me in His unmistakable way. If I truly wanted to love Jesus, I had to love these people and bring them God’s word with a servant heart. Preaching is a divine encounter in which the preacher and the audience are confronted with the reality of God’s presence.
I preach because preaching is a pastoral encounter
Preaching, whether it is the local church or an institutional setting such as a nursing home, is a mode of pastoral care. After I preached a sermon on angels, a woman in the congregation came to me, recalling the time that I prayed for her daughter. As a single mother, she was doing all she could to help her daughter deal with powerful spiritual oppression. When we prayed together, I specifically asked God to send angels to protect the girl from the self-destructive patterns she had been experiencing. Her daughter’s life dramatically changed as confusion and temptation were diminished almost immediately.
When you back up what you preach by caring practically in the areas you are preaching on, you give people a living window through which to see truth. The old age, “practice what you preach” is more than a warning against hypocrisy.
Preaching is a pastoral event, and so the polished style of the preacher is not as important as the personal credibility he or she has earned in relationships. I try not to take myself too seriously, but I take the call to preach the Word of God very seriously. I sometimes joke about sermon length, but I make it clear that sermons are not fair game to be joked about. Preaching is highly honored in scripture and should not be underestimated in the congregation.
Preaching is a means by which God has chosen to proclaim His grace and truth to people, and we neglect or beguile it to our own peril. I love to preach, not because it is easy or because it is fun, though at times it has been both. Instead, I preach because it is satisfying to be in the center of where God wants me to be. I recall hearing a man speak to a group of his friends who were complaining about their pastor’s sermons. He said, “Come on, what you want is a preacherette who preaches sermonettes for worshipettes.”
On the other hand, I know that in our culture it is not always easy to listen for more than a few minutes. It is my call in life to be a missionary pastor and that means always growing to try to communicate with our culture while at the same time faithfully presenting the Word of God. I publicly and frankly asked our congregation to pray that God would empower me and help me be concise as I preach.
After a guest speaker had preached in my pulpit, I overheard a parishioner saying that after thirty-five minutes he was usually looking at his watch when I preached, but on this day, the message was over before he knew it. He was not trying to undermine my ministry. He was just telling the story as he saw it, but he forgot one thing. As his pastor, I can speak into his life in ways that guests never can because I have a spiritual relationship with him.
This was brought home to me recently as I preached as a guest in another local church. I was amazed at how responsive and affirming the people were to my preaching. Being the new face and voice always attracts some praise, but I was also aware that I was not part of their shared burdens, visions or victories. Preaching to them was not a poignant pastoral event as when I preach to my congregation.
I preach because preaching is an evangelistic encounter
No matter how few people you see in the seats on Sunday morning, remember that you are preaching to multitudes. Each one who hears you touches other people each week who, in turn, touch others. Preach with the passion of a world changer because when the lives of our hearers are changed, we change the world. Always preach to the masses one soul at a time.
Because our main worship service is not a seeker service but a discipline service, there are more believers than nonbelievers there. Even so, I intentionally plan to preach once a month to nonbelievers. This is incorporated into the monthly communion Sunday service because I believe that the bread and the drink are important visual statements of the presence of Jesus today as well as His sufficient sacrifice for our sins.
Several months ago, a couple came to our communion service after being invited by friends. The husband had grown up with a church background but had wandered far away from the church. It was significant that they attended this particular Sunday when communion symbolized something that he was very familiar with. I realize that in some traditions, the Eucharist is for those from within the particular denominations and so this idea would have to be tailored to suit. Still, we often try to adjust the way we celebrate the Lord’s presence to how we think an unbeliever would like it, and in doing so, we eliminate some of the things he might be familiar with.
Besides preaching intentional evangelistic sermons, preachers have a natural opportunity to remind the congregation of its responsibility to its immediate mission field. Church attenders deal with the same issues that non-attenders deal with. The attenders want to know how to deal with real life in the name of Jesus. If they hear sermons which provide only trite answers rather than connecting sound doctrine with everyday life, they will live their faith as though it were a culture totally separated from the larger culture. On the other hand, messages which intentionally interact with the realities of Monday morning, teach them that the gospel is relevant to people on the job site, the classroom, the office or the kitchen.
The illustrations and the stories you tell from the pulpit communicate the reality of the gospel for everyday life. Jesus spoke in parables and stories. He used the language of the people. During a sermon on forgiveness, I referred to targets as a symbol for our emotional sensitivities. I said that we all have some hidden targets, emotional soft spots which other people may or may not know exist. In fact, we might not know they are there until they are hit. Then we react way out of proportion to the intensity of the stimulus. In order to live together we must learn to forgive as a way of life. The congregation responded to the symbol and many people understood for the first time why some things hurt them so easily.
I preach because preaching is a divine encounter, a pastoral encounter and an evangelistic encounter. I decided to forego the technological seminar advertised on the slick flyer and aim to become more aware of the presence of the Lord and the hunger of people for the satisfaction of His Word.

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