Preaching is a sacred task. We who shepherd congregations are entrusted with the assignment of opening God’s very own words to his people, week after week, and translating ancient truth to today’s people. We are to preach so as to build up (edify), to hold up (encourage), and to fire up (exhort).
I’m burdened that so much preaching today remains in its ancient context and fails to be interpreted to our current cultural circumstances. I agree with Chuck Swindoll that boring preaching is a crime, and I wish more pastors would come to the pulpit not only prayed up, but touched with the feelings of their flock. In a given year of preaching, we ought to at least touch on every major area of doctrine, each genre of Scripture, and address the major points of pain and need in people’s lives from Scripture.
I do this by preaching thematically in shorter series’ but it can also be accomplished through an expository framework equally well. But this isn’t really a post about what topics, themes, or books of the Bible you should be preaching from. It also isn’t about preaching about current cultural crises which, while highly appropriate at times, shouldn’t be the general shaping influence of our pulpits long term.
This is a post about one of the most neglected topics in preaching – the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I once hosted a revival service and invited a man to preach whom I had known in the past as a very talented guy. I had heard him expound the Scripture and explain the gospel well, but his life and ministry had changed significantly since my last contact with him. The revival wound up as a series of really good motivational speeches with no mention of Jesus, of the cross, or of any way to be saved and changed by the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Tragically, this happens weekly in pulpits around the world. In various kinds of churches there are various kinds of messages given and various approaches to preaching taken. Some address issues of social justice and others offer practical help in the areas of family and finances. But too often, Jesus is absent, or receives an honorary mention at best.
I believe strongly that modern preaching suffers from a lack of relevance, but I believe relevant preaching is a pointless waste of time if it doesn’t ultimately center around Jesus and drive toward the gospel.
Whatever you’re preaching on this Sunday, preach the gospel! Present Jesus. Adorn the doctrine of Christ. Make it clear that King Jesus is the star of the story and is ready to save anyone who calls out to him and make an appeal in every single message for people to place their trust in him. There is an urgency about this issue that I can’t express in a single blog post. Jesus matters more than anything else you could possibly preach this weekend.
Yes, preach about finances, but always point your hearers toward the ultimate Giver of life. Yes, preach about marriage, parenting, and relationships, but always point the audience toward the Father who is gathering a family to himself. Yes, preach about addiction and brokenness, but always point people toward the Healer and Great Physician. Yes, preach about the cultural issues of our present hour, but always point people toward the timeless Creator and Savior who came and just the right time in history.
As I write this, I’m preaching a three-part series of messages called Margin. We’ll use pieces of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to address our deepest anxieties about time, money, and relationships. We’ll talk about how we need some space and solitude in our day for the sake of our sanity and our spiritual growth. We’ll talk about dumping our relational baggage from past hurts so we can have healthier friendships and marriages now. But…
Each and every one of those messages will ultimately point people to find their salvation, their healing, their rest, their confidence in Jesus, who died to forgive our sins and rose to lead us as our King!
I’m an advocate of being very sensitive to the seekers among us, but I’m even more an advocate of exalting the Savior to every seeker. I love cool sermon graphics, clever titles, and services that are crafted to communicate ancient truth in a modern context well. But we can have “church” on Sunday and everyone can go home happy and still on their way to hell if we who preach neglect to offer forth the most life-changing truth of all – the good news about Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and eternal reign.
Whatever you are preaching this Sunday, talk about the gospel. The world needs it desperately, and God has called you to be the messenger of this sacred good news.