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.

Uncategorized

The relevant church

Earlier this week, I jumped into an online discussion about what constitutes a ‘relevant’ church.  It got me thinking about other conversations I’ve had over the years about what makes a church relevant.

Some say using contemporary music makes a church relevant; others say it’s fancy stage lighting.  Still others will say it’s a casual atmosphere with lots of humour.  The fact is that any of these can contribute toward promoting a relevant church, but so can traditional formality in the right circumstances.

There are many perspectives on this in our day, but I think there’s really only one answer, as far as the Bible is concerned, about what makes a church relevant.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, the great American pulpiteer of an earlier generation, once told the story of a native preacher in south China who was confronted by one of his listeners, who accused him of preaching nothing but Jesus for three days straight.

The preacher asked his accuser, “What did you eat for breakfast?”

“Rice,” was the answer.

“And for lunch?”

“Rice.”

“And for supper?”

“Rice.”

“What have you been eating for years?”

“Rice.”

“Why do you eat rice every day?  Why don’t you eat something else?” the preacher asked.

“Because it keeps me alive,” said the man.

The preacher replied, “That is the reason we preach Christ, nothing but Christ.  He brings us life and he is our life, and we could not live without him.”

Churches are relevant when they teach apostolic truth, the good news of Jesus Christ.  Whatever we couch it in, our job as the church is to centre our lives in worship and in service on the One without whom we could not live.  That is what makes us relevant, because Jesus, and the message of the Scriptures, is eternally relevant.

For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified” (1 Corinthians 2.2, NLT).

P.S.:  I was given a surprise honour last week when my blog, passionatelyhis.com, was named as one of Canada’s top Christian blogs by Faithworks Centre on Prince Edward Island.  There are many great blogs on this list, and you can read about them here.