Radio, television, and in our many moves across North America, we have attended many churches, enough to give me a sense of two kinds of preaching. The first is common and everyone knows it; it is the person in the pulpit telling everyone how they should live. Some do it nicely, some with a lot of yelling, but either way, many people do not like it. One reason is that no one likes to be told that they are wrong.
The second kind of preaching follows more along the line of what this word means in the Bible — ‘to announce’ or ‘to publicly proclaim divine truth.’ This preaching is sometimes accompanied by urging listeners to respond, but not always.
Obvious to me, the best preaching and the most effective is that which speaks of what God has done and is doing. I believe this because I’ve realized my own way is either wrong or doesn’t work very well, and I need to trust God. Hearing of His grace and power builds my faith and makes trusting Him easier, even logical.
The Bible urges readers to ‘preach’ the good news about God. If taken to mean ‘announcing divine truth’ or telling others the good news about Jesus, this can take several forms. Here are two of them:
Teaching others what He has taught me:
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:16–20)
Sharing my personal experience with God:
“And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:39–43)
Preaching is often associated with a job description for a church leader. I don’t have that position. However, I can still share with others what God has taught me, and share what I’ve witnessed of His actions in my life and in the lives of others. I can proclaim the wonderful news that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, and promises new life for those who believe.
Through the years, I once was attracted to that preaching that tells me what to do — because I wanted to please God and thought I could do it. It took some time to realize that obedience also involves relying on Him. To do that, I need to be continually reminded of His great love, power, and grace. When that happened, I began to resist that “do this” kind of preaching and wanted to hear more of the “God does this” preaching.
About that time, we had just moved two times and experienced three growing, vibrant churches. They were three different denominations, but had one thing in common — the preaching was about the wonder of God. No finger-shaking, no admonitions of “you must do this.” Obedience became a joy instead of a duty, and these three churches were bursting at the seams!
I don’t like to be preached at, but good preaching is never a bad thing. God uses it:
“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:21–25)
Jesus, I know if preaching becomes more about what I’m supposed to do and less about what You have done, I get discouraged and want to give up. This is because I already know that without You, I can do nothing. I also know that in my human forgetfulness and tendency to go my own way, the good news of Your power and grace needs to be preached to me often. Because that is true, then others certainly must benefit from the same kind of ‘preaching’ also. Certainly, they don’t need me to tell them how to live!