Published on December 14th, 2013 | by Dave Bitler
The Importance of Preaching
“The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.” — Second Helvetic Confession
Those words nearly caused me to walk out of my first preaching class in seminary. I mean it is one thing to endeavor to give your testimony or to comment on what a text means, I felt I could do those things, but to be tasked with speaking the very Word of God? What mere human could possibly be up to that task? Certainly not me.
Those words still haunt me today, but what I have come to learn is that, as a preacher, the weight of those words is a burden I ultimately don’t have to carry. I mistakenly read those words and felt suffocated because I was afraid that in my preaching, I might say something wrong. But this statement in the confession has almost nothing to do with preachers, but it has everything to do with the Word! A preacher’s primary goal in any sermon should be to say what the Scripture text says. Preaching is about the Word, and its inherent power to accomplish what God intends for it (Isaiah 55:10-11). Preaching is really never about the preacher (Philippians 1:15-18).
Put in those terms, I don’t imagine many people would disagree with that proposition. But from the perspective of a typical Sunday morning pew-sitter, is that the understanding that we bring to church? Do we value the worth and weight of the Word of God more than we value the enjoyability of the delivery? How often do we judge a sermon based on the skill of the delivery rather than the content of the message?
Now, I will concede the fact that it is easier to digest the content of a message when it is delivered well. Pastors know this and they want to preach riveting sermons that minister to their congregants. But the responsibility for hearing the message does not fall soley on the deliverer, we need to be active listeners with open hearts and minds so that the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the preaching of the Word. If we allow ourselves to become disinterested because the preacher isn’t as dynamic as we would like him to be, or because we don’t like the stories and illustrations he uses, then we are responsible for quenching the Spirit out of our own hearts.
Do you value the Word of God when it is preached or do you simply want to be entertained? In subsequent posts I am going to endeavor to present ways in which we can be more intelligent, active and sensitive listeners to the Word. In this way we can work with the Spirit to allow the Word to penetrate our inmost being (Hebrews 4:12) and allow it to change us so that we can grow in knowledge and wisdom and become more like Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:14-18). To Christ alone be the glory!