Encouragement From The Word

A cure for anemic preaching

One of my long-held convictions is that there is a lot of anemic preaching out there today.  In so many cases, as I hear about and experience myself, preaching is either weak in content or weak in communication.  These two scenarios are most common:  either the preacher speaks well and passionately and has nothing to say, or the preacher shares the Word of God accurately and faithfully but without any sort of affection.

When we get strength in both content and communication, that’s when preaching becomes powerful. And I want to encourage you, whether you’re involved in the church I am or any other congregation, to hold your preacher to a standard that brings excellence.  How?

First, expect that your preacher will bring you the Word of God with power.  Come to worship with readiness and expectation. Engage in the singing; pray with the prayers; listen to the Word; be ready to act on what the preacher says. I can tell you that good listeners make better preachers.

Second, study the passage yourself, ahead of time, if you know what your preacher will be talking about.  Each week, I put the next Sunday’s message title and text in the bulletin – not so that people will say, “Oh, that’s nice, he’s talking about…” whatever.  No, I do that in the hope that people will have a look at the passage, ponder it, and come to worship the next Sunday ready to hear from God, ready to interact with the text and with what God gave you from it through the week.

Third, don’t hesitate to ask your pastor to help you work through a Bible passage that you’ve been reading.  If a text challenges you, moves you, or confuses you, talk about it.  (You can also do this with your small group.)  Let your pastor know that you’re engaged with the Bible, and that will make him or her more engaged with the Bible, too.

Fourth, pray for your pastor.  When people tell me they pray for me, I am moved, sometimes to tears, because I know what a difference that makes in my life – and in the life of the person who prays for me.  Preaching is a spiritual act of worship for the preacher and for the listener.  God can and does move by his Holy Spirit in amazing ways through the act of proclamation and intentional listening.

When you do these things, holding your preacher to a higher expectation of preaching that is both transformational and passionate, it’s amazing what the Holy Spirit will do with the church.

When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.  I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling.  And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.  I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2.1-5, NLT).

This week, I’m working through The Art of Better Preaching, a course by Carey Nieuwhof and Mark Clark.  It inspired me to write this.  If you’re a preacher, I encourage you to take this online course.  (Nobody paid me to say that, I promise.)

God’s best for your weekend.  How will you change how you listen to preaching?

Encouragement From The Word will return on August 24.

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