While musing on the things of God, my thoughts began to ponder modern day pulpit preaching in churches and gatherings around the world. I thought about the many presentation styles I have seen, the expectations of the audiences, the tantalizing titles, the packaging of sermons for media sales, books published consisting of the author’s sermons, the humanistic rankings and comparisons of our favorite preachers, and so forth. I smiled thinking that just as kids might argue with one another, “My dad can beat up your dad,” or, “My mommy is prettier than your mommy”, we might also argue that, “My pastor can preach better than your pastor”. We all tend to be pretty human at times.
This led me to meditate on the evolution of preaching just over the last century. I wondered what changes came about after Bible colleges and seminaries began teaching students about exegesis, hermeneutics, extrapolation, and the fine art of sermon preparation? How did the invention of the public address system change the delivery of preaching? How have Power Point, Bible software, and multimedia projection altered sermon preparation and presentation styles? What differences have radio, television, audio and video recorders, cameras, live streaming, and social media made? Should these and other innovations have had any impact at all on the delivery of God’s Word? The proliferation of sermon templates, information technology, and having everything you need to know at the click of your mouse have replaced prayer and study in the lives of many teachers and preachers. How have those things affected the anointing, conviction, and the response?
As one who loves great preaching, and who also loves to preach great messages, my spirit soon began to trouble me greatly. If we are so easily swayed by such trivial influences, how then will future innovations impact the preaching and teaching of the Gospel? Have we substituted many things, talents, and technologies for the overwhelming presence of God? Have we settled for less than reality? Would we recognize God’s presence if it showed up? Would we welcome or resist it?
Just as music tastes vary, arguably there is also a vast difference in what an 80 year old preacher and an 18 year old preacher might consider as “good preaching” today. If various generations don’t always respond well to each other’s music, message, or delivery today, would we even recognize the teaching and preaching style of the early apostles? How would people of 300 years ago respond to the teaching and preaching styles we are accustomed to today? Would they repent and praise, or simply burn us as witches?
With those thoughts as a backdrop, I began to think of the ministry of Jesus Christ. He was comfortable teaching individuals, small groups, and also the masses. First and foremost He was a communicator. He used parables to allow his audiences to understand what He was teaching. So the question arises, what then was He teaching? The Bible answers that question. Acts 1:3 reminds us that Jesus taught them, “of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”
Jesus was the Master at communicating the things of His invisible Kingdom in words the people could grasp and understand. Jesus unlocked the mysteries of the Kingdom of God and revealed them unto babes in understanding. Matthew 13:10-11 says,
10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,
Herein is found the secret to effective Biblical ministry throughout the ages, including today. We are to reveal and demonstrate the Kingdom of God to people in this world. A study of the lives of Jesus and the early church apostles would quickly reveal that their singular focus was on teaching and preaching the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. Not sermonizing. Not bewitchment or enchantment. Not perfected programs, choreographed messages, performances and precision timed services. If we strip those things aside and have nothing left but words, our no frills and no spills message should clearly communicate the principles as pertaining to the Kingdom of God. If anything we should only build from that foundation as laid by Jesus Christ and His apostles (1 Cor. 3:11).
Consider this. Matthew 16:17-19 says,
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Just as keys open locked doors, spiritual keys open locked spiritual doors. The term “keys” is plural. Our messages should not be about catchy titles, popular trends, shock effects, political hopes, personal gain or influence, or any other motive that is less than revealing the nature and aspects of the Kingdom of God. The message of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom is good news. It liberates people. It draws people to the Lord. It opens the promises and blessings of God to believers. It produces Godly transformation and fruit.
Fruit reveals the identity of its source.
If you are teaching, preaching, and exemplifying the true Gospel the signs and wonders of that Gospel will follow you as a believer (Mark 16:20). The true gospel will produce fruit that resembles God (Galatians 5:22-25 and Ephesians 5:9,10).
We must use our teaching and preaching to connect people to God. Ministry is more than a career. It is about using right words to open a spiritual portal to another Kingdom that is not of this world. Job 6:25 says, “Honest words are convincing, but you are talking nonsense (TEV)”. Much of today’s preaching is nonsensical. Therefore, preachers must rise above the temptation to preach to the crowd in order to achieve a desired response simply so they will approve enough to support us and/or to ask us to speak to them again.
We must speak the words of life and transformation to them.
The Gospel is about something that did not originate in this world and therefore it should not be handled and administered in carnal trappings, motivations, or expectations as though it is of the world. Every minister should critique if the gospel they preach is actually touching hearts, reaching into lives, and seeing those lives transformed.
Is the gospel really making a difference in people’s lives through your ministry? It should be. If not then what are you preaching for? If not, then it is time to change. So, how do you change?
If you dissect deeply enough to see the reality of what most modern preaching is you will discover it misses the mark. A studious look at its fruit discerns that it produces attitudes and actions within churches and fellowships that do not reflect the Spirit and Word of God. In all honesty many churches have the same strife, envy, jealousy, power struggles, immorality, favoritism, politics and such that the world has. Could modern methods and motives for preaching and teaching lie at the root cause of such issues? Possibly. You reap what you sow. If the teaching and preaching doesn’t produce transformation then the world will continue its domination in the lives of people and their actions will reflect such.
Every message should be about revealing the mysteries of the Kingdom of God to people. Just as in the creation God spoke and then substance became, God’s messengers should speak His Word and substance should still form. We must make the invisible visible. Preachers should make it clear. Paint a picture that anyone can understand. Give people a glimpse of heaven on earth. Give them every reason to want to go there. Draw them to the Lord. Feed their hunger and thirst (Matthew 5:6). Adorn the Gospel (Titus 2:10).
This carnal generation wants everything to be their way. They will heap their approval and rewards upon those who give it to them the way they want it. They that tickle the ears to please such an audience will certainly hear the crowd’s cheers and applause. Such will be your reward. But, they that please the Lord by feeding the hunger and thirst of the soul with the transforming message of the Truth shall have a greater reward, and they will hear the Lord say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
Never sell your message (Proverbs 23:23). Reveal Him to them and you will never lack lasting results that reveal Him in them.
In conclusion, if people are grounded and established on the sure foundation of the doctrines of the Word of God they will stand strong. If they are founded on fables, stories, and personalities they will eventually leave you for someone who has a better way of telling them what they want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3-5 warns,
3 The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear.
4 They will turn away from listening to the truth and give their attention to legends.
5 But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God. (TEV)
The answer remains the same as Paul wrote to Timothy. In 2 Timothy 4:2 he wrote,
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
Preach and teach to change lives. First yours. Then theirs.