Some are suggesting that preaching has run its course. They say the craft served its purpose back when we were a word-based culture but today a monologue seems like an outdated mode of communication. The proclamation of words from one talking head to a nodding (or sleeping!) crowd for 20-30 minutes or, worse, 40-50 minutes, is a bygone byproduct of a different era when words mattered. Today, we are an image-based culture. The plethora of words we encounter every day, online or in print, has caused words to become meaningless. Music and other art forms have greater potential to impact people than the traditional sermon! And why should the pastor be the authority on matters of biblical interpretation? Dependence on the preacher was appropriate back when many people were uneducated and illiterate. Today, however, biblical resources abound and are accessible to everyone. Why limit ourselves by listening to only one voice week after week when there is a multiplicity of voices in the Church? Simply put, preaching is a useless and, therefore, unnecessary tool for the development of disciples. An internet blogger named Kevin says it all when he writes, “We have hardly had any preaching at Grace Church for the last 3 years - haven't missed it!”
Why would anyone keep preaching in a 21st century American context that seems to value preaching less today than ever? While I believe preaching must change in substantial ways, here are a few reasons why I keep on preaching and encourage you to do the same:
Ironically, the ridiculous nature of preaching may be the very rationale in support of its ongoing practice in the life of the Church. The practice of preaching reminds us over and over again that God can accomplish the impossible through impossible methods and means, that he just might decide to show up through the so-so words of a so-so preacher and transform so-so people into disciples who change the world! It makes sense that God might do this through music, a dramatic sketch, or an inspiring piece of art. It doesn’t make much sense that God would use something as common as words to come to us, but he does. Just like he comes to us through the common bread and wine of Communion, so God comes to us through common words strung together by some common being we call preacher. That is why we preach!
Preaching inspires middle aged women and men to leave lucrative careers and go to the most frightening places in the world to build schools, hospitals, and orphanages. Preaching does that! Preaching rescues couples whose marriages are hanging by a thread so that instead of calling it quits they hold on “for better or worse.” Preaching does that! Preaching brings hope to a lonely and lifeless teenager so that she resists the temptation to commit suicide. Preaching does that! Preaching causes a high school drop-out alcoholic to believe that God just might use him as a pastor. Preaching does that! Maybe we haven’t seen as much liberation as we long to see, but perhaps we’ve seen it often enough to convince us that preaching still has the power to bring freedom to the prisoner and recovery of sight to the blind, to set captives free by proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor (See Luke 4:14-21).
2. Add some other reasons to the list in support of the ongoing practice of preaching in the life of the local church.
3. Reflect on how preaching has changed your life. What impact has the practice of preaching had upon you and/or through you?