What is good preaching?
When it comes to style, there are many choices. Some ministers preach like an intellectual giving a dissertation. Speaking in a monotone, it would take a nearby explosion to get them to move from behind the pulpit. Others move around so much a pulpit seems unnecessary. Of those that move around, some will speak in a conversational mode, walking up and down the aisle and across the stage. While others scamper across the stage and back again, frantically waving their arms, beating the pulpit, reaching a fever pitch with their voice that will make piano strings vibrate. With others, the content is the only thing that separates them from a stand-up comic. Once the congregation is rolling in laughter, then the bomb drops and a point is made.
Everyone has a style they prefer above the others. Still, all kinds of preaching, including many not mentioned, can be good preaching. But is it style alone that makes good preaching?
The style has little to do with the quality of preaching.
What does the Bible say about good preaching?
Romans 1:15-16 tells us that preaching the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” Preaching, therefore, should have power, which comes from the Holy Spirit.
Preaching should change hearts. Preaching should change lives.
Many people want comfort, a dose of self-confidence, or a realization of peace from a Sunday morning sermon. They want to feel better when they leave than when they arrived. It is not that preaching should not include these things, but these feel-better emotions are a result of what should happen in a sermon – life-changing power.
Three New Testament books are written to preachers – both books of Timothy and the book of Titus.
In 2 Timothy 2:14, Paul tells Timothy his preaching should be “to the subverting of the hearers.”
To subvert is to overturn or overthrow from the foundation. Powerful preaching should cause an overthrow of a person’s heart.
Preaching should reveal sin. For example, sex outside of marriage is considered normal in our society, yet the Bible says it is a sin. If a person believes sex before marriage is okay, then the heart needs to change to recognize it as a sin.
Once the sin is recognized, there should be a feeling of guilt. Guilt is not pleasant; therefore, we tend to avoid it. Transforming the recognition of sin into guilt is a work of the Holy Spirit, often done through the power of preaching.
Now that there is guilt, a person must do something to eliminate it. Many will choose to stop thinking about it. An out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude is the usual route taken. Others will rationalize their actions by blaming others or their circumstances for their wrongdoing. This reaction transfers guilt from them to something else; therefore, it is no longer their fault, and no further action is required. Still, others are content doing what they are doing and could not care less about what the Bible says about their activities, and the sin never moves on to guilt.
The Bible gives a solution to the sin and any guilt the sin may cause.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, The Lamb of God, sacrificed Himself on the cross to provide the sinless blood necessary to eradicate sin.
Through preaching, the power of the Holy Spirit brings a person to the point of a decision. They can trust the blood of Christ and receive forgiveness and salvation through the washing away of all their sin by the blood of Christ. Sin and guilt are taken care of at the cross of Christ.
The peace and comfort people are seeking are at the cross. By realizing that the Son of God is the price paid for us, we can now live life confidently.
This process works throughout our Christian lives as sins are brought to the surface. We never lose our salvation, but our sins hinder our relationship with God. As preaching reveals the deeper parts of our hearts, they are dealt with through hearing the Word, acknowledging sin, turning the problem over to God, and finally, repentance. Preaching should continue to overturn our hearts.
When there is no subverting of the heart, it can only be because of the indifference of the hearer, the lack of power in the preaching, or both.
Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Preacher Tim Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana. His weekly column “Preacher’s Point” may be found at: www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com