The bigger the church gets the more important the pulpit becomes because it is the rudder of the ship. Where else do you get an hour of undivided attention with all these people on a weekly basis? Most pastors do not understand the power of preaching. But even more important than that is they don’t understand the purpose of preaching. I’ve read more than 500 books on preaching, and as I’ve read them, the vast majority does not really understand that preaching is about transformation, not information.
So, to understand the purpose of preaching you have to go back and look at a few things. First, what is the purpose of God for man, and second what is the purpose of God for the Bible? Once you understand those two things, your purpose for preaching becomes very clear. What is the purpose of God for man? Well, the Bible tells us in Romans 8:29, “For those he foreknew he did predestine to become conformed to the image of his Son.” God’s purpose from the very beginning of time has been to make us like Jesus. In fact, in Genesis He says to let us make man in our image. That has always been God’s purpose – to make man in His image. Not to make gods but to make us godly, to have the character of His Son, to be conformed into the image of Christ. So, He wanted to make us like Himself. In Genesis there was the fall – Jesus came to restore what was there before, so the goal of all preaching has to be to produce Christ-likeness in an individual. Is that person becoming more and more like Jesus?
Now, what is the purpose of the Bible? Well, it says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work.” People misread that verse most of the time. The purpose of the Bible is not for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Those are all “for this” in the Greek. For this, for this, for this, in order that. The purpose is in order that. Doctrine in itself is not the purpose of the Bible. Reproof in itself is not the purpose; correction nor training are the purpose. The bottom line is to change lives: “That the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work.” Every message must be preaching for life change.
I hear people talk about “life application” as being a genre or type of preaching. If you are not having life application, you are not preaching. It may be a lecture; it may be a study; it may be a commentary, but it is not preaching. To me, preaching is for life change. I am not the master of this. Don’t make John the Baptist your model. Don’t make John MacArthur your model. Don’t make Rick Warren, or Spurgeon, or Calvin or anybody else your model. Make Jesus your model.
In my two day seminar on preaching that we take thousands of pastors through I just keep coming back to, “Now let’s see how Jesus did it. Now, look at how Jesus did it.” You take the greatest sermon in the world – which is the Sermon on the Mount – and He starts off, “Let me tell you eight ways to be happy.” Happy are you if you do this; you are happy if you do this. Then He talks about anger: Don’t get angry. He talks about divorce: Don’t divorce. He talks about worry – let me give you two reasons not to worry: It’s unreasonable; it’s unnatural. Jesus talks about all of these practical things, and then He says, “Now, if you put this into practice you are a wise man. If you don’t, you are a fool. Build a house on a rock.” The Pharisees were amazed because Jesus preached as one having authority. It is 100 percent application. My model is not anybody but Jesus.
My goal is not to inform but to transform. Unless you understand that, your messages tend to be based on the traditional style of teaching. I say interpretation without application is abortion.
(Adapted from a Preaching magazine interview with Rick Warren.)

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