Why Preaching is Ailing – Part Me

In the last two posts we’ve considered Greg Haslam’s list of eight reasons why preaching is ailing.  I’d like to add a couple more to the list, from my perspective.  Feel free to add your thoughts.

Some don’t know how to interpret the Bible. Some preachers have the best intentions, and even good presentation skills, but are lacking in the core ability to wrestle with a biblical text and grasp its intended meaning.  It’s easy to search a text for launch pads to spiritual thoughts, but it takes some prayerful skill to grasp the point as intended by the author.  Hermeneutics is not a luxury for the preacher, it’s foundational.

Some don’t understand the biblical bigger picture. We live in a day of ready access to biblical information, but it takes more than a big virtual library to make a preacher.  Quick access to info on a passage is one thing, holding together the big picture of the whole Bible is quite another.  We need more preachers who are really people of the Book as a whole.

Some don’t know what preaching is. It’s easy to think of preaching as a form of communication, a religious pattern to be repeated each week.  But what of the core elements of true preaching: the true meaning of the text, effectively communicated through the preacher’s words and life, with an emphasis on the applicational relevance to the particular listeners present, all in full reliance on the Spirit of God.  Miss out one of these elements and preaching ails fast.

Some don’t care about their listeners. They say that church too easily reflects its culture.  Well we live in cultures often bereft of others-centered motivation.  It’s too easy to build a ministry around a core motivation of “whatever is best for me.”  Preaching withers when listeners don’t matter.

There we go . . . four more things to watch for in our own ministries.  Tomorrow I want to turn the tone so we don’t get discouraged!  And if this list doesn’t discourage you, then be careful of pride!

One thought on “Why Preaching is Ailing – Part Me

  1. Peter, I enjoy reading your daily thought on preaching and wanted to thank you for your thoughts on “Why Preaching Is Ailing, Part Me and What Would Jesus Preach.

    As I been reading your post I have appreciated Haslam’s list and cosider these all to be a problem for those who do not understand their great privilege and responsibility to accurately explain the text, but these are probably not a serious problem with those who do understand that their primary responsibility is to bring forth the word of truth.

    While Haslam’s list certainly contribute to the problem
    those issues which you added to Haslam’s list seems to me to be more of a problem for those who do desire to be effective communicators of the word of God.

    I do not want any who read this comment to think that I have discovered some secret to revive preaching, I would like to throw out my thoughts on this subject because I desire to see God’s word go forth powerfully from behind the sacred desk.

    As I was studying Jesus preaching this last year, and particularly in Matthew I began to wonder about the difference between Jesus teaching and the Pharisee’s. We know that He taught as one having authority and not as their scribes. I had to ask, what was the difference? What gave His teaching such authority? What I began to notice was that when Jesus taught the word of God He used it in its context and that is what gave Him such authority. To illustrate this I would bring out Jesus confrontation of the religious leaders in Chapter 21:33-46. Jesus uses Isaiah 5 as the basis for His confrontation and while this is not real clear to us today, this would have been readily recognized by the religious leaders. Jesus is going to answer their question of Matthew 21:23 regarding who and what gave Him the authority to rearange the furniture in the temple and cast out the corrupt money changers but behind this is an accurate use of Isaiah 5 which is a direct confrontation against corrupt leadership. When Jesus finishes the parable in vv.43-45, those who were being addressed by His parabolic explanation knew that He was speaking about them. Jerusalem would be destroyed because of the corruption in the leadership and the leadership would be transferred to others who would lead righteously. To often this passage is used to speak of the removal of the kingdom from the Jews and given to the Gentiles, but that is not the case it is speaking of a removal of their place of leadership and that is what the text says in v. 45.

    What I am trying to say in this somewhat lengthy comment is that the reason for a lack of power in preaching is because we do not use it within its context. Jesus used the text of scripture in its context and that is what gave it such power and the ability to penetrate.

    To illustrate this principle further I will use an arrow. I happen to hunt big game with a bow and arrow and in order for me to take an animal down it must penetrate into the vitals. My arrow has a total weight of 430 grains, of which 100 grains is point which is razor sharp, the shaft being 300 grains and the fletches or feathers being around 30 grains. If I were to shoot the 100 grain tip alone it might penetrate the hide and cause a little bleading but would not be able to enter into the vitals. But if I shoot the whole arrow it will pass right through the animal and cause enough internal bleading to bring the animal down in seconds. The shaft gives it weight and the fletches guide it and keep it going straight and the tip is to cut. Without the whole weight of the arrow it will be effective only to bring some external bleeding but will not be effective in bringing down the animal.

    The same thing is true in preaching. If we do not use the weight of the context, the point will not be driven home to the heart. The context brings weight and guides the sermon bringing power to the message that goes to the heart. That is how I see Jesus using the word of God and that is what gave His teaching such authority.

    What would Jesus Preach? The word of God in its context and in order for us to do this we need to spend time with the text and understand the authors intent in order to bring it powerfully from the pulpit.

    Peter, I know this is a bit of a long comment but would love to have your comments or feedback.

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