The Purpose of Preaching

People have a variety of opinions about preaching. Most pastors are convinced that their way of preaching is the right way. Lets look at some of the preaching models.

Some pastors approach preaching by making it all about meeting people where they are at. This is commonly known as felt need preaching. You answer the questions that people are asking about their lives. You speak to people’s needs and hopes and fears. The hope is that if we can interpret culture and be culturally relevant then people will see how attractive the gospel is and want to follow Jesus.  The goal here is to be relevant to culture and build a bridge to culture.

Other pastors look at preaching as an information dump. They look at trying to educate their audience. They hope that they can give their flock enough information then they will be enlightened and continue to desire to grow. So they talk about theology and historical backgrounds and point to the past. Often attending a church where information is the focus, you as the member will grow in your knowledge of your scriptures and become a very informed Christian.

Some teachers focus instead on a very active, practical approach to their teaching. They try to give their congregation a clear path to taking control of the presenting problems they face. They give action points on how to overcome life’s dillemas. They focus on really practical subjects like managing your money, having a good quiet time and having a good sex life. These are usually pastors who are doers and type A leaders.

A newer, postmodern development in preaching is the teacher who brings his audience on a journey. This teacher is often the direct opposite of the active, practical teacher. They focus instead on asking questions and pondering weighty issues without resolving the tension that those questions bring about. They desire to struggle with issues and bring them to the surface but often have not desire to answer the questions they struggle with. The journey is what matters.

Still other churches are focused on the emotional response to the preaching. They focus on how the person feels in light of the sermon. There are several different expressions of an emotionally focused church. Some want you to feel a certain way during the sermon or worship service. They want you to either be emotionally moved to tears or laughter. They want you to be moved to feeling really worshipful. Or they may desire the polar opposite of someone feeling an emotion. They want a non emotional response and are very careful to not offend their audience. They try very hard to not be offensive by anything that they say, do or teach. They are very politically correct and measured.

Personally I think all these models have their strengths and weaknesses. Any thoughtful teacher should strive to preach in a relevant way that brings new helpful information to the table.  In fact, good teachers incorporate all of these elements into their teaching to be able to connect with the different kinds of people who are a part of their audience.

Recently I have had a lot of clarity concerning the kind of teaching I feel God is calling me to grow in. In my quiet time I came across Colossians 1:27-28.

It reads:

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. [28] Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:27-28

I love how it says that God is making known among us a great mystery. That mystery is that Christ is in us. This is our hope of glory. Think about that we have Christ in us.  During the sermon on the mount Jesus said that we are the light of the world. Thats remarkable. God is in us to be a light in the darkness. We all know we live in a dark place but it is better to be a light in a dark place than curse the darkness. jesus is calling us to be light. To show that we have his light in us. But that isn’t easy. It is hard to be consistent without community around us to encourage us to be faithful

But what Paul continues to say in Colossians 1:28 has shaped my teaching: Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Preaching at its core should be to present your audience mature in Christ. If you arent doing that you are missing the mark. Jesus said in the great commission that we are to make disciples. He didn’t say we are to make fans, or to make followers, but that we are to make disciples. When you teach you are to make people into replicas of Jesus through your teaching. That means as Paul says in Corinthians that you are to proclaim Jesus, warn people and teach them with all wisdom.

So that means that every teacher should ask themselves the following questions:

Am I calling people to be mature in this message? This is so hard because you have to work hard to be clear and practical about what you want people to change in their lives. But you have to have maturity as your target or else you will focus on either a creative idea or a truth that you are fond of but that may not transform a life.

Am I warning people? It takes a lot of courage to warn people about the dangers of this world. Often there are sermons that we don’t preach because we know that it is not a popular message. If you are going to really be a godly pastor you are going to have to be ok with offending people. If we are going to be like Jesus we will be unpopular when we teach what he said.

Am I proclaiming Jesus? It is easy to make a sermon about so many other things than Jesus. If you are going to a preacher of the gospel, then Jesus’ teachings need to permeate both your life and your teaching. You need to tie what you teach back to what he says. Be grounded in the word. Use it as your standard of truth. Use him to be your measuring stick concerning truth.

This past week we started a new series at Green Hills Church. The point is to drive people to maturity as we discuss hard topics found in the book of Exodus. The first week we had to tackle what the Bible had to say about slavery. I hope you enjoy the message.

You can hear the first sermon of the series here: What the Bible has to say about Slavery.