Summary: A message on the importance of biblical preaching.
“The Word of God Proclaimed”
Preached at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1/20/2002
The Rev’d Quintin Morrow, Rector
8But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:8-17).
Hugh Latimer, the first Protestant Bishop of Worcester, and English Reformer and martyr, in a sermon preached before the King’s Majesty in April of 1549, tells the story of a young woman in London who was asked by a neighbor, “Mistress, whither go ye?” “Marry,” she said, “I am going to St. Thomas of Acres to the sermon; I could not sleep all this last night, and I am going now thither; I never failed of a good nap there.”
More recently, theologian Thomas Allan has written: “It takes a great amount of skill to take the gospel and make it boring, tedious and dull. Our preachers today, it seems to me, have mastered that skill right well.”
And the final nail in the coffin is this short poem. It reads:
I never see my preacher’s eyes
Tho’ they with light may shine—
For when he prays he closes his,
And when he preaches, I close mine!
We are continuing today with the second part of our 3 part series of messages on “The Word of God.” Last week, as you may recall, we looked at “The Word of God Written: The Might of His Word.” Examining II Timothy chapter 3, verses 14-17, we saw that the Bible is God’s Word, because, as St. Paul said, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” We also discovered that the Bible is reliable and trustworthy in all that it teaches and proclaims; that it is sufficient for salvation; and that it is useful for doctrine, for rebuking us, correcting us and for training us in righteous living.
Today we will be looking briefly at “God’s Word Proclaimed: The Primacy of Preaching.”
This may come as news to you, but there is currently a crisis in preaching. Many mainline churches, presently suffering from doctrinal division and insecurity about the reliability of Holy Scripture, have relegated preaching to a minor role in public worship. Denominations, such as ours, which were once known for dynamic and life-changing preaching, are now known more for what they are not pro- claiming from their pulpits rather than what they are proclaiming. In past generations it was the expectation that ministers would spend hours in prayer, study and preparation for the Sunday sermon; and these men used to stand boldly in the pulpit on Sunday morning, with open Bible in hand and proclaim, “Thus says the Lord.” Ministers today, however, timidly mount the pulpit on Sunday mornings, and after little study and even less prayer, clear their throats and say, “This is what I think.”
But the crisis in preaching doesn’t end there. Some theologians and sociologists are also currently sounding the death-knell for preaching. They make the case that modern society has produced a generation of people who distrust authority—all authority, including biblical authority. Whereas people used to exercise an unchallenged confidence in government, police, physicians, church and Bible, they are now more cynical and mistrustful of traditional authority figures—like preachers—and less apt to be impressed by the statement “Thus says the Lord.” Further, these same preaching skeptics have said that television has a bred a generation of people who are unable to hear sermons anymore. One noted theologian wrote:
We can no longer assume that people either want to listen to ser-
mons, or indeed are able to listen. When they are accustomed to
the swiftly moving images of the screen, how can we expect them