If preaching embarrasses you, then please get out of the pulpit and do something else. How do you know if preaching embarrasses you?
- If you believe that preaching was a more effective medium in a bygone oral era—then preaching embarrasses you.
- If a Hollywood movie about Jesus is released and you think it provides you a more strategic and up-to-date evangelistic tool than your pulpit—then preaching embarrasses you.
- If you think being a systematic theologian or writing Christian books would put you in a position to be really influential, but you will settle for a pulpit ministry—then preaching embarrasses you.
- If you see your pastoral responsibility as figuring out how to make the Bible relevant to the modern world—then preaching embarrasses you.
- If you believe that showing videos of a more gifted preacher than you would be more effective than standing before your congregation and proclaiming the word of God—then preaching embarrasses you.
- If you translate the militant language of the Bible into therapeutic language—then preaching embarrasses you.
Preaching is God’s chosen medium, and it will never go out of date. Humanity lives in the context of a battle of sermons. The Bible begins with the divine King of the universe proclaiming his word, but another voice intruded and clashed: the appearance of the serpent contradicting God’s word with his own proclamation is the first example of spiritual warfare in the Scripture. From the creation of the cosmos, kingdom warfare has been a conflict over the Word of God (which we have preserved for us in Scripture) and the Word of God (Jesus Christ), who is the final word (Heb 1:1-2). The entire biblical storyline follows this ongoing cosmic war.
Thus, as a shepherd, one uniquely called to preach the Word of God in a local church, you stand in direct opposition to Satan’s parasitic kingdom and at the apex of kingdom conflict in this age. Your role as preacher of God’s Word thrusts you into a strategic place of primacy in kingdom warfare. The greatest need in the church and the world is faithful, Christ-centered, expository preaching. The most powerful weapon in cosmic battle and the primary means of transforming grace is the straightforward, unadulterated proclamation of the Word of Christ. C. H. Spurgeon hauntingly asserted, “The moment the Church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her” (C. H. Spurgeon: The Early Years, 1834-1859, v).
I do not want Hollywood to bring Jesus and the biblical story to the big screen. In movie portrayals of Jesus, you hear an actor. In faithful, biblical preaching of Jesus, you hear Him (Rom 10:14, 1 Thess 2:13). Preaching is uniquely the living voice of Christ to a congregation. Movies are an impoverished substitute for the vivid, living face-to-faceness of biblical preaching. We also need to remember that as valuable and important as Christian books are for the benefit of the church they cannot replace preaching. The ultimate goal of hermeneutics is proclamation not description. B. B. Warfield was correct when he said, “We are, perhaps, prone to overestimate the relative importance of books… But the ‘winged word’ of speech moves the world” (David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony 1869-1929, vol. 2, 186).
Anyone who would minimize the task of preaching should remember that Jesus himself was fundamentally a preacher. Luke records the Galilean crowds pleading with Jesus to stay and continue his ministry of healing and exorcism, to which he responds, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). Later, Jesus tells a parable and asserts that for those who shut their ears to the voice of God in the Scriptures, “Neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). It is striking, as Walter Moberly points out, that to convince his disciples that he was alive and that the Messianic promise of redemption and kingdom remained, “the risen Jesus offers no new visions from heaven or mysteries from beyond the grave but instead focuses of patient exposition of Israel’s Scripture” (The Bible, Theology, and Faith: A Study of Abraham and Jesus, 51).
Faithful pastors communicate the voice of the chief Shepherd to his sheep through preaching (John 21:17, 1 Pet 5:2, 4). His sheep know his voice and live “by every word” that comes from his mouth (Matt 4:4, John 10:27). It is quite possible that embarrassment about preaching may lead to a more respectable ministry. Emphasizing other aspects of ministry and minimizing the sermon will often result in being declared a wise and innovative leader, but if so, you will have received your reward in full. Weak-willed preaching functions as a rhetorical narcotic on behalf of the wisdom of the world. Only a man with a blood-earnest commitment that the word of the cross is the power of God belongs in a pulpit (1 Cor 1:18). But, if you have that commitment, you may come in fear, trembling, and modest speech, but you know that it is God’s pleasure “through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21).
Preach the Word!