Summary: Four marks of biblical preaching
Woodlawn Missionary Baptist Church
February 19, 2006
What is your definition of great preaching? From time to time I hear comments about sermons or preachers that cause me to make mental notes about what people consider to be great preaching. For some, great preaching means hollering and yelling and showering the people in the front pew with spit. For others, great preaching means teaching a Bible passage one verse at a time and simply exposing the truths found in it. There are people who like preaching to be encouraging and light hearted, then there are those who say you haven’t preached until you’ve stepped on their toes. Some like the encouraging “talks” of an Osteen. Others like the forcefulness of a Haggie. There are the intellectuals like R.C. Sproul, the entertainers like Ed Young Jr., and the story-tellers like Swindoll.
But what is it really that makes for great preaching? So far I haven’t said anything about great preaching, because when most of you think about what makes preaching great you typically think of your favorite preachers in terms of personality and pulpit mannerisms. A dozen preachers can say the same thing, but it is not the content that draws us to them so much as the way they present what they say. But is that what makes for great preaching?
We would all agree that not all preaching is great preaching, nor does any preacher preach great sermons all the time. There are days when I have been known to put a person to sleep. I heard about a man that went to see his doctor for advice about being cured of snoring. The doctor asked, "Does your snoring disturb your wife?" The patient replied, "Does it disturb my wife? Why it disturbs the entire congregation!"
Today I want to talk to you about great preaching as we consider the preaching of John the Baptist, and I want to make it perfectly clear to you that great preaching is very simply this: it is biblical preaching. All biblical preaching is going to be great preaching, and all great preaching is going to be first and foremost biblical preaching. Having said that, it is then necessary to say that not everything that goes under the title of preaching is really preaching at all.
In this message I want to give you four identifying marks of biblical preaching so you might learn to recognize it when you hear it, but first let me ask and then answer this question: does preaching really matter? I mean, of all the methods we might employ to reach the hearts and minds of people in this day and time, does preaching really matter? The answer to that question is yes, it does matter, and it matters for a very simple reason: God said to employ it.
In our text John the Baptist came forth preaching. Jesus preached. He ordained the twelve apostles to preach. He sent out the seventy preaching. Paul told young Timothy to preach the word, and said himself that of all the things God had called him to do, preaching the Word of God was first and foremost.
But in our day it seems that preaching is deemed of little importance, even among professing Christians. In his book, Biblical Preaching, Haddon Robinson points out two reasons worthy of noting. First he says that preachers themselves have lost respect.
Because preachers are no longer regarded as the intellectual or even the spiritual leaders in their communities, their image has changed. Ask people in the pews to describe a minister, and their description may not be flattering…the pastor comes across as a “bland composite” of the congregation’s “congenial, ever helpful, ever ready to help boy scout; as the darling of the old ladies and as sufficiently reserved with the young ones; as the father image for the young people and a companion to lonely men; as the affable glad-hander at teas and civic club luncheons.” If that description pictures reality at all, preachers may be liked, but they will certainly not be respected.
In addition to the loss of respect for the office of preacher is the fact that we live in a time of information overload.
…preaching takes place in an over-communicated society. Mass media bombard us with a hundred thousand “messages” a day. Television and radio feature pitchmen delivering a “word from the sponsor” with all the sincerity of an evangelist.
At this point some of you might say that these things may be true somewhere out there, but certainly not here. Ours is a church that staunchly defends the necessity of biblical preaching and understands that it must be first and foremost in all we do. You may say that, but do you really believe it? Our numbers on any given Wednesday might suggest otherwise. When I find people scrambling about during preaching services looking for ways out of the service I see something different from what I hear.