Friday, February 19, 2010

The Primacy of Preaching

I had this well-meaning and sincere, though misguided, individual tell me one time that the "praise and worship" part of the service was the most important one since it was the part that ushered the people into God's presence. Of course, such a notion is more in keeping with revivalism's modus operandi of stroking man's fleshly appetite for excitement and immediate experience than it is grounded on biblical doctrine—and the only thing that it really ushers people into is an adrenaline rush!

This mentality acutely reflects the sad state of modern Evangelicalism in how it has completely missed the fact of the dialogical nature of the worship service: God speaks; we listen and respond in worship, humility, and gratitude, and are sanctified by the spoken Word. What you have in most Evangelical Sunday services is a pop-rock concert in the beginning, a self-help, pseudo-psychological talk in the middle, and an encore of the previous "music ministry" performance in the end. God's Word in Scripture, if ever used at all, come in sporadic bursts of verses here and there that are forced to concur with the speaker's agenda, thereby stripping the text of its intended meaning, stifling the work of the Spirit in His sacramental function of quickening the Word, and robbing the people of blessing.

It is the preacher's job and mandate to be a scholar of Scripture for God speaks to His people through the preached Word. This is the most important part of the worship service. Let no one delude you into thinking otherwise.

"God thinks preaching is much more important than most people do. For God, it is not just verbal 'filler' in a Sunday worship service. Neither is it the sharing of
one’s experiences designed to inspire and stimulate those of others. Nor is it a nicely organized talk, complete with PowerPoint slides, intending to inform people of '10 ways to become more spiritual.' (I never found a text in Scripture that contained 10 practical ways to do anything!) Rather, the words of the preacher are to echo the words of his text, and, when faithful to that text of Scripture, contain 'the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.' As Paul writes elsewhere:

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to
preach the gospel….For the message of the
cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of
God (1 Cor. 1:17-18).

You’ll need to contend with that whether or not you are called to preach. If you are, tremble! What you will declare with your lips is the redeeming energy of God Himself. If you are not called to preach, assigned instead to join God’s people as they hear faithful preaching and give it fleshly form in their obedience, take that task seriously too. God’s Word brings life or death. Remember the sobering words of the apostle, admonishing preacher and hearer alike:

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among
those who are being saved and those who are
perishing. To the one we are the smell of death;
to the other the fragrance of life. And who is
equal to such a task? (2 Cor. 2:15-16).

Who indeed?

Dr. John R. Sittema, 'Called to Preach', 15—16

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