Preaching

Good News for all who preach it.

preaching

Speaking biblical truth in words people can understand is the work of Christian preaching.

Preaching is generally referred to as proclamation, often an explanation, from God’s Word, the Christian book, the Bible. Preaching in Scripture most often refers to telling the Good News—known as “the gospel”—to those who are not believers. Public statements (Matt 3:1; Mark 1:14; 2 Tim 4:2), announcing Christ and His work (Acts 5:42; Rom 10:15; 1 Co 1:17), are both the emphasis of Jesus’ ministry (Matt 4:23; Luke 4:44) and the responsibility of Jesus-followers to declare the same (Acts 28:31; 2 Tim 4:2). 

Compatible descriptions of Jesus’ speaking include “preaching” and “teaching” (Mark 1:14, 15, 21, 28, 39). Epistolary New Testament references can include both terms as seemingly interchangeable (Col 1:28), however, the activities are regularly separated (Eph 4:11; 1 Tim 2:7; 2 Tim 1:11; 4:2-4). Differences between words used for “preaching” and “teaching” in the early church would tend to emphasize evangelism in the first (Rom 1:15-16), training in the second (Col 2:6-7). “Teaching” is a spiritual gift (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:8-11, 28; Eph 4:11-12; 1 Pet 4:11) which is to expound the Word of God (Acts 15:35; 18:11, 24-28; Rom 2:21; 15:4; Col 3:16; 2 Tim 3:16; Heb 5:12). “Preaching” has been expanded to mean what normally takes place in the company of Christians; an explanation and application of the Bible from the pulpit or from behind a lectern. Christian assemblies often refer to “preaching” meaning “teaching” in a Sunday morning context (Acts 20:20, 27).

The word homiletics—conversation or discourse with an assembled group—is frequently used for the study and practice of preaching. Crafting communication in a sermon (literally, a stringing together of words) for a local congregation is normally the work of a pastor, described in Scripture as a shepherd (1 Pet 5:1-4). Leading the flock by teaching God’s Word is crucial for Christian maturity (Jn 21; Acts 20). False teaching or preaching is also warned against (Rom 16:17-18).  Approaches to preaching may be as varied as those who preach.

Methods and examples abound, accessible through print and digital formats. But style comes from belief and belief arises from acceptance. If preaching has its roots in the Christian Church, the reason for preaching (Jesus) will be equal to the acceptance of Christian belief (Jesus is Lord and Savior). Biblical preaching depends on Christian belief, coming from God’s revelation through prophets and apostles to humans, through the Scriptures (Eph 2:20; 2 Thess 2:15; 1 Tim 4:11; 6:2, 3; 2 Tim 2:2; 3:10; 2 Pet 3:2).

Crucial components to Christian preaching depend upon writing, reading, proclaiming, hearing, and changing.

(1) Writing is the content. Words are only important if Truth is important and Truth is communicated with words through a book. God’s Word ends in Revelation by referencing “words” and “book” six and seven times respectively (Rev 22:7-10, 18-19).

(2) Reading is the command. The Written Word and The Living Word teach that words are the soil of belief (Jn 1:1-18). Well chosen reading, then, is the fertilizer of a Hebraic-Christian leadership mindset (Deut 17:18-20; Josh 1.8; Ps 119:103; Acts 17:11; 20:18-21, 27) for the soil of those who listen to preaching (Luke 8:4-18).

(3) Proclaiming is the compulsion. The preacher cannot contain the inner passion (Jer 20.9), the irresistible compulsion of The Holy Spirit (1 Co 12:4-11, 28, 29; 2 Tim 1:14) to tell others about Christ (1 Co 9:16).

(4) Hearing is the communication. A key word in Scripture, the Hebrew word “hear” comprises a threefold concept: receiving information through the ears, listening to the words which leads to understanding, and obeying the declaration by acting on its truth (1 Sam 15:22-23; Jas 1:19-25).

(5) Changing is the commitment. God declares His Word will not return void (Isa 55:10-11), instilling a transformed spirit within the individual (Rom 2:21), infusing a renovated spirit within countries (Jonah 3), inspiring an amazed spirit within groups (Luke 2:18, 47), illumining a reformed spirit within the preacher (Rom 10:14; Titus 1:3), and influencing a committed spirit within the listener (Isa 45:22; Matt 11:13; 13:9; Mark 4:9).

“How are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom 10:14) is the question answered by those who preach. The audience then bears responsibility once the preaching is heard (Matt 11:20-24).

Preaching through the power of the Holy Spirit makes listeners accountable to the message (1 Cor 2:6-13).

Mark has been preaching since he was 13, filling pulpits since he was 16. Dr. Mark Eckel instructs about preaching and teaching wherever there is a lectern, wherever there is someone to listen to good news. “Preaching”  © is one of 22 articles included in the forthcoming History of Christianity in the United States (Rowman & Littlefield) by Dr. Mark Eckel.

References & Resources

Chapell, Bryan. Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005; Kaiser, Walter C. Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003; Martin Lloyd-Jones, David. Preaching & Preachers, 40th ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012; Mathewson, Steven D. The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002; Motyer, Alec. Preaching? Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching. Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2013; Robinson, Haddon. Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2014; Stanley, Andy. Communicating for A Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2006.

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3 comments

  1. From a wonderful FB message question from my pastor friend Erik Spohr, “If preaching/teaching people in Godliness primarily centers on words, God’s words, then how should we think about an unfortunate percentage of preaching that contains little scripture and instead seems to orbit more around the creative ideas of the preacher (alone) &/or moralistic-therapeutic-deism?”

    My response:
    Your point is important: God’s Word is the foundation and permeation of all our words. In fact, I tell my students I do not stand “on” the Bible but “under” it, in submission to Its authority.

    We “exposit” or “exegete” Scripture since it is important that people hear The Word in their own context. HOW we deliver The Word does influence WHAT we say. [Look up “contextualization” in the search line of my website to see what I have to say about that important phenomenon.]

    If you read the preaching of the Second Testament you will see constant connection to Scripture. Yet, as you read Scripture itself, as you read the narratives, poetry, genealogies, law codes, etc. you will see over and over direct references to common life, metaphors, illustrations, and stories which are told to bring The Message to the people for whom it is intended.

    I generally agree with the direction of your question: you and I are both concerned that human words do not overcome Divine Word. Scripture must be the focal point of our preaching, else, what would we have to say?!

    Yet, creativity should always be a part of communication of His Word. Even YHWH Himself told His prophets to preach naked, lay their right side for a whole year, and wear a yoke around their neck, all to make the point that YHWH wanted delivered to His people. He “spoke” in ways that would both gain attention (!!) AND communicate His Word.

  2. As usual, Mark “packs A LOT in a little” — splendid explanation, grounded in the Word, and a great refresher/reminder for all of us who “bring the Word.” Thanks!

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