Preaching is undervalued. If “Homiletics” was a stock on the NASDAQ it would carry a strong “sell” recommendation from most pundits. Many just aren’t sure that the sermon can carry the freight. As preachers we are trying to build believers. We want to encourage spiritual formation among the people God has given us. The question is whether preaching can get the job done.
People smile at us when we preach and they whisper encouraging words to us as they file out of the church on Sunday morning. Yet a handshake at the door is a far cry from the kind of encouragement a pastor feels when a real individual prays to receive Christ on a Tuesday morning in the office or at a small group meeting Thursday night.
Increasingly, pastors are wondering whether preaching works. The tangible impact of a small group or one-on-one ministry yields much more immediate and direct response for a results-starved preaching pastor. Yesterday one of my students reported that his pastoral mentor advised him not to spend too much time on sermon preparation because the real work of ministry happens in face-to-face personal relationship.
He’s right, of course. He’s also wrong. He is right in saying that great things happen when we develop relationships in ministry.
He’s wrong to suggest that this could not happen in preaching.
For me it is an issue of economy. Once a week, the whole congregation gathers to hear God’s Word. Preparing to use that half-hour to its greatest benefit is simply good time management. Perhaps preachers have lost faith in preaching because they’ve been offering too much poor preaching. Perhaps they have forgotten that their call from God is to “preach the Word.” I believe that preaching still works when preachers pray and when they are faithful to give energy to their calling.
Preaching still works because God still speaks!