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Preaching Articles

Preaching is the art of engaging an audience with the truth of the Bible for the purpose of application in daily life. A lot of preaching today strives to be immediately practical. But much of life isn’t immediately practical.

I get it. Preaching should have value for application today. In a church landscape filled with “The Christian Life for Dummies” sermons, I sometimes feel like an antiquated relic from a bygone era, channeling my inner Charles Spurgeon as I preach on the meaning of the vicarious atonement of Christ.

But life is more than a series of how-to exercises. Life is more than tasks to be accomplished. It is not a series of boxes to be checked. Here are four reasons why I think that while preaching should have practical value, that value doesn’t always come from preaching being immediately practical.

1. Christian living that is reflective of the life that Christ lived goes far deeper than how to live out Christianity today. Jesus was always talking about the coming Kingdom. He focused on its right-now aspect just as much as its to-come aspect. I want to take time out of the daily grind of goal-oriented stuff in my life to bring healing through my soul through soulful contemplation of eternity.

2. Life isn’t a series of problems to be solved. It is a journey to be lived out. When we fail to take time purely for contemplation of the divine in a non-practical goal accomplishment way, we are reminded that some things just have to be lived through. God didn’t solve Job’s problems right away. He allowed Job to grow in grace and trust through trial. Life is a pilgrimage, not a race.

3. Preaching that is always consumed with immediate practicality may overlook the character shaping aspect of corporate worship, of which preaching is a part. Character shaping takes time. It takes years and decades. Character shaping doesn’t take place in how-to seminars. Character shaping is slow work—like training a bonsai tree to grow in a certain way, not like tree trimming with a lift truck and chainsaw. It can’t happen in one setting.

4. Preaching should highlight the glory of God more than anything else. The kind of preaching that emphasizes the glory of God cannot always be immediately practical. Local fellowships should regularly gather together as the man of God proclaims the Word of God with regard to the glory of God!

Preaching must always be worshipful. Immediately practical sermons can be worshipful, but there is a kind of contemplative preaching that is missing in churches today. The kind of preaching that asks people to push pause on the daily grind and the boxes that need to be checked, and just brings glory to God.

Preaching shouldn't always be immediately practical because God is not always immediately practical. God basks in the splendor of His glory. So should we. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18 ESV).

In addition to shepherding the flock as Pastor of Liberty Spring Christian Church in Suffolk, Virginia. Chris Surber is also Founder and Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti. 

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Baptist Preacher

commented on May 26, 2014

Great Point, Chris. I "Channel my inner Spurgeon" all the time. That is such a funny but true way of stating it.

Paul Fritz

commented on May 26, 2014

Jesus and Paul spoke to solve problems in their preaching and teaching. Paul wrote, "I aim to evangelize where Christ has not been preached so that... those who have no report of Him will see and those who have not heard will understand." (Romans 15:20,21) 99.9 of giving stays within the World C where 95 of the people have already had access to the gospel. .09 of giving goes to World B where 50 of people have access to the gospel. In world C, where 1.8 billion unreached have no ready access to the gospel, only .01 of our donations are spent. That is a problem that is worth helping people remedy! Let us press on to help fulfill Christ's great commission.

Joe Mckeever

commented on May 26, 2014

how can I get some inner Spurgeon, Chris, and what channel is he on?

Richard Martin

commented on May 26, 2014

Sorry.... just seems like another 'pointless effort to tell the rest of us how to do it'. So glad the Apostles weren't inundated with all this 'expertise'.

Chris Surber

commented on May 26, 2014

Well, that's got to be about the most sarcastic thing I've read. This is a non how to to. This a how not to to. You chose to read it so that means you were in a how to website criticizing how to articles. Fascinating.

Mitchell Leonard

commented on May 27, 2014

I LOVE IT!!!!

David Barnes

commented on May 26, 2014

I think Paul's epistles such as the book of Ephesians show a good balance in connecting the transcendent glory and it's relation to the daily practical living. The first three chapters tell of our position and wealth in Christ but the last three chapters outline how that should lead us into Christ-like practice and walk. The first is our inspiration for the latter.

Lawrence Rae

commented on May 26, 2014

Good article Chris. In North America we have taken a corporate, goals and objectives look at the faith. I think we believe that personal and church growth will somehow come out of our organized approach to Scripture and life. Jesus chose his disciples to be with him first of all. Although I love Spurgeon, I would rather put on my "inner Jesus." Thanks for the gentle correction.

Chris Jones

commented on May 26, 2014

Great Point! I agree there are thousands of Preachers who can only preach ?The Christian Life for Dummies? sermons! I am outraged. I surely don't want to be associated with them. My reputation would be tarnished. Can you imagine that? Have you ever considered leading a "Private Mastermind Group" for a ?select few?? If so let me know so I too can be associated with this ?Exclusive Group? who preach God?s Word just like you and those of that ?bygone era.?

Chris Jones

commented on May 26, 2014

Great Point! I agree there are thousands of Preachers who can only preach ?The Christian Life for Dummies? sermons! I am outraged. I surely don't want to be associated with them. My reputation would be tarnished. Can you imagine that? Have you ever considered leading a "Private Mastermind Group" for a ?select few?? If so let me know so I too can be associated with this ?Exclusive Group? who preach God?s Word just like you and those of that ?bygone era.?

Glenn Hawkins

commented on May 26, 2014

But Chris! Don't you know that you are going against the grain of so many churches which, in the name of "getting butts in seats", the messages are, in your words, "self help seminars"? (insert sarcasm here). Your emphasis of character development over problem solving is spot on! It seems to me that in our instant everything society we have trained ourselves to demand instant growth as disciples of Jesus. Emphasizing practicality over doctrine, especially the doctrine of God, and even soteriology only further exacerbates the problem. Lastly, when we as pastors emphasize problem solving, we continue to keep our congregants in control of their lives, which last time I checked, flies in the face of our LORD, who said, "if anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me."

Chris Surber

commented on May 26, 2014

That's right! Thanks for the insightful comment. And the first part made me literally laugh out loud. Thanks for that as well. Blessings!

Tim Burns

commented on May 26, 2014

Do you like sweet and sour chicken or sweet or sour chicken? Why not both? Why not great exposition with practical application? Andy Stanley reminds us Jesus came with grace and truth. Both need to be in our messages. Exercising forgiveness builds character. Acting on the Word builds character and vice versa. I'm sure there are some preachers that are all expostion and some that are all practical. I'm also sure there are a lot of pastors who love preaching the Word and applying it to people's everyday lives. Many blessings!

Chris Surber

commented on May 26, 2014

I'm implying neither and either / or or a both / and; kind of a third thing, but yes I think your right on. I'm specifically responding to what seems to be a pervasive culture among today's churches that is so focused on number games, easy believism, and a sort of fast food preaching style. I'm trying to stimulate thought in the direction of a deeper pilgrim way of following Christ over a quick fix from a praatoc guru kind of way common today. Blessings!

Gail Surrago

commented on May 27, 2014

Most 'practical' preaching revolves around our personal financial problems, our relationship problems and our health. The problem with this is that Jesus told us to 'first seek the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto us'. What most people are failing to grasp is that being consumed by concern over these things quickly becomes our focus instead of God and that is a form of idolatry.

John S. Marquis

commented on May 27, 2014

Here?s the problem, as much as we all know much of life isn?t ?immediately practical? our culture in enamoured with the immediate and being gratified by same. The majority of TV?s shows have the fate of mankind build, climax and resolve in a one hour episode minus commercial time. Add to that the general proclivity in our culture to not think deeply or critically and the churches are rife with people expecting the immediate. I believe this is why the Bible calls us to be ?countercultural?. To create in our lives and around us a culture that has a Biblical worldview based on God?s wisdom and perspective.

Mitchell Leonard

commented on May 27, 2014

Great article, our goal as pastors should be that our people grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Does motivational speaking do that? I think not.

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