I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2
Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:16
I preach the Word; that’s what I do.
I preach because I have to do it. I don’t sense a choice in the matter at all.
I preach because nothing else can satisfy the urgency and passion that God has ignited in my heart for His truth and His people. The same should be true for you. If you can go sell cars or shuffle stocks instead of being a pastor and preacher of God’s Word, then go do that.
For the rest of us, I’m grateful for a brief opportunity to talk about our common goal: being the best proclaimer of God’s truth that we can be. I’ve signed up to do this for a lifetime and want to be continually growing in effectiveness. In a series of posts I’d like to pass along some things about preaching that I’ve learned so far that may be helpful to you as you serve the body of Christ.
We all know some things are better caught than taught. Formal instruction is necessary, but there are still those pieces that you have to figure out for yourself. Often it is those pieces that determine your success or failure. You can’t learn these from a textbook; you can only pick them up by experience, both your own and from those you trust.
For all the difficult trade-offs that come with living your Christian life in public, we get the joy of holding God’s Word in our hands, rightly dividing the Word of truth, and watching it change lives. That’s so much bigger than having free weekends.
1: Your preaching must flow out of your own relationship with the Lord.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8
I’ve heard it said that you can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t lead where you don’t go. If you don’t know God and His Word personally and experientially, you’ll never be able to teach about them effectively or powerfully. Unless your preaching is drawn from your own experience, it will get thin and stiff and silly—fast. You might be able to pull off a masquerade for a month, but you can’t keep it up for a year.
I’ve been in the same church for over two decades. I have over a thousand separate, studied, prepared, outlined, illustrated, completed messages. In 15 years I’m going to need a thousand more. You had better have something going on with God if you need to come up with that much content.
I was seven years old when I gave my life to Christ. I remember clearly my mother opening her red Bible and sharing with me all the provision God had made for my salvation. Ingrained in my memory is kneeling beside her bed, surrendering my life to Christ, and receiving His great salvation.
Over the course of these last 40+ years, I’m still having an experience with the Lord—this week, today. When I preach, I’m not talking about Him, I’m drawing on the love and true-ness of an on-fire relationship with Christ that is continuing to happen in my heart.
I commend to you the process of sanctification as the first lesson on preaching. You have to have a current, ongoing experience with God.
2: Your preaching reflects who you are.
But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 2 Corinthians 4:2
The greatest compliment anyone could give you about your preaching ministry is that the way you preach is the way you are in real life. The key word is authenticity. The preaching of truth is communicated through an individual’s personality. Naturally, it’s going to come out differently from each of us.
Be who you are in the pulpit. Don’t act bigger than you do in normal life. Don’t talk or play a part you think others expect. Don’t copycat your favorite pastor or seminary professor. God loves how He made you and believe it or not, you’re perfectly suited for the message that He wants you to proclaim.
Yes, you can work on clarity and conviction. You definitely should strive to improve anything that could cloud your communication. Just keep it authentic. Martin Lloyd-Jones masterfully said: “Preaching is a truth coming through a man on fire.” Your preaching must be a true expression of the man God has made (and is making) you to be.
More thoughts on preaching to come…