Church life seems to be a complicated mixture of many issues. There is the biblical/theological, the worshipful, the devotional, the instructional, the personal, the interpersonal, the contemporary, the cultural, the cross-cultural, the politics (in-house), the financial, the counselling, the development of leadership, the infrastructure of programming, the discipleship, the discipline, the pre-marital, the marital, the building issues and on it goes. So is everything a preaching issue?
Yes and no.
No first. I think some have taken well-meaning comments by famous preachers of the past and pushed them to an extreme. More effective preaching from the pulpit should result in less personal crises in the pew (and hence, less time in counselling). In theory there is truth here, but it would be naive to think that sermons alone will do the pastoral care of a church ministry.
Preaching cannot replace the life-on-life ministries of discipleship, mentoring, pre-marital counselling, interpersonal conflict resolution and on the list goes.
The preacher must be very wise and sensitive about levels of specificity in preaching. A specific issue in the church should not automatically be presented from the pulpit, even in cloaked form. So if Mr and Mrs XYZ are facing significant marital issues, that isn’t a preaching issue.
Yes. Preaching is not one distinct category of church ministry to be listed alongside others as a mutually exclusive function in church life. There is good reason for preaching preparation to take a potentially disproportionate amount of time in our weekly schedule. We may do five or ten things in ministry, but if preaching should not be one fifth or one tenth of our focus. Why? Because preaching is a central ministry of the church that can and should influence every other area.
I cannot simply preach to solve the problem of marital conflict in the church, or address the issue of programme overload, or stir a desire for training and growth within the leaders, etc. But my preaching can influence every one of those areas, and more.
How people view the building, each other, the programme, music, training, missions, relationships, and so on can all be influenced by preaching. We mustn’t fall into the trap of seeing preaching ministry as the weekly Bible bit that speaks detached truths to maintain tradition. Rather the preaching is the primary opportunity to shape a biblical ethos in the character of the church. It is the occasion for marking the very DNA of church life with biblical values. It is the foundation on which all aspects of church ministry can flourish.
Is everything a preaching issue? No. But yes.