Faithful men to herald the Word of God. Men who will preach passionately and with authority. Cowardly preaching produces cowardly Christians. For those that think such language is too harsh- in the words of G. Campbell Morgan- “Sermonettes breed Christianettes.” We don’t need anymore men standing in the sacred pulpit to softball the precious truths of God’s sacred Word. We need men to give sermons with doctrine and done authoritatively. We do not suggest in the pulpit. We boldly proclaim the Gospel. The body of Christ needs to be preached to. Many do not even know what preaching is! They are given self-help talks, self-esteem motivational speeches, fluff & stuff pep rallies all littered with Christian jargon and sprinkled here and there with Bible verses. They are given seminary type classroom lectures from the pulpit (even spot on theologically). So that they do not recognize true preaching because they have been trained that everything but preaching is preaching. Many are too busy trying to dumb down or even apologize for certain doctrines that offend the natural man while others are imparting information as if they are giving a seminary lecture, in a seminary classroom, speaking to seminary students. No, no, no! We need faithful preachers. Men who will lovingly, passionately, faithfully and publicly herald the Gospel of Christ! Preach it! Preach it! Preach it! The Church needs the Word of God preached to them. Like the great preachers of old did.
But I’m only a thirty one year old kid in his first pastorate. What do I know? In comes John Stott:
Thus Word and worship belong indissolubly to each other. All worship is an intelligent and loving response to the revelation of God, because it is the adoration of his Name. Therefore acceptable worship is impossible without preaching. For preaching is making known the Name of the Lord, and worship is praising the Name of the Lord made known. Far from being an alien intrusion into worship, the reading and preaching of the Word are actually indispensable to it. The two cannot be divorced. Indeed, it is their unnatural divorce which accounts for the low level of so much contemporary worship. Our worship is poor because our knowledge of God is poor, and our knowledge of God is poor because our preaching is poor. But when the Word of God is expounded in its fulness, and the congregation begin to glimpse the glory of the living God, they bow down in solemn awe and joyful wonder before his throne. It is preaching which accomplishes this, the proclamation of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God. That is why preaching is unique and irreplaceable.
The contemporary loss of confidence in the gospel is the most basic of all hindrances to preaching. For to ‘preach’ (kerussein) is to assume the role of a herald or town crier and publicly to proclaim a message, while to ‛evangelize’ (euangelizesthai) is to spread good news. Both metaphors presuppose that we have been given something to say: kerussein depends on the kerygma (the proclamation or announcement) and euangelizesthai on the euangelion (the evangel or gospel). Without a clear and confident message preaching is impossible. Yet it is precisely this that the Church seems nowadays to lack.
Not that this phenomenon is altogether new. Throughout Church history the pendulum has swung between eras of faith and eras of doubt. In 1882, for example, Macmillan published an essay by Sir John Pentland Mahaffy entitled The Decay of Modern Preaching. And at the beginning of this century Canon J. G. Simpson of Manchester bemoaned the absence of authoritative preaching in England: ‘Not only does the race of great preachers seem for the time to be extinct, but the power of the pulpit has declined … The pulpit of the present day has no clear, ringing and definite message.’ Small wonder that a child, wearied by a preacher’s boring utterance, appealed ‘Mother, pay the man, and let us go home.’
Yet as we approach the end of the twentieth century we are conscious that the erosion of Christian faith in the West has continued. Relativity has been applied to doctrine and ethics, and absolutes have disappeared. Darwin has convinced many that religion is an evolutionary phase, Marx that it is a sociological phenomenon, and Freud that it is a neurosis. Biblical authority has for many been undermined by biblical criticism. The comparative study of religions has encouraged the growth of syncretism. Existentialism severs our historical roots, insisting that nothing matters but the encounter and decision of the moment. Then there are the blatant denials of radical or secular theology, denials of the infinite, loving personality of God and of the essential deity of Jesus. These things have contributed to a loss of nerve among preachers. Some frankly confess that they see their function as sharing their doubts with their congregation.
Others are assuming a false modesty by insisting that the ‘Christian presence’ in the world needs to be not only a serving but a silent presence. Or if they have an active role at all, they understand it in terms of dialogue rather than proclamation; they need, they say, to sit down humbly alongside secular man and let him teach them. I remember vividly how at the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches at Uppsala, Sweden, in 1968, one of the Geneva secretariat proposed to the section on ‛mission’ that they include this sentence in their report, ‘In this dialogue Christ speaks through the brother, correcting our distorted image of the truth.’ At first hearing it sounded innocuous, until you realized that ‘the brother’ meant the non-Christian partner in the dialogue. If this sentence had been accepted, it would have been the only reference in the section report to Christ speaking, and it would have upended evangelism into a proclamation of the gospel by the non-Christian to the Christian!
This may be an extreme case, but it exemplifies the vogue of false humility, which declines to claim any uniqueness or finality for our Lord Jesus Christ. The whole Church seems to be caught in a crisis of identity, in which it is unsure of itself and confused about its message and mission. Michael Green sums it up with his customary forthrightness in his preface to The Truth of God Incarnate, the riposte he edited to The Myth of God Incarnate. His preface is entitled ‘Scepticism in the Church’. In it he writes, ‘During the past forty-five years … we have seen an increasing reluctance to accept traditional full-blooded Christianity, complete with an inspired Bible and an incarnate Christ, and a growing tendency to accommodate Christianity to the spirit of the age.’ Now there is no chance of a recovery of preaching without a prior recovery of conviction. We need to regain our confidence in the truth, relevance and power of the gospel, and begin to get excited about it again. Is the gospel good news from God, or not? Campbell Morgan, the gifted expositor who for two separate periods earlier in this century was minister of Westminster Chapel in London, was quite clear about this:
‘Preaching is not the proclamation of a theory, or the discussion of a doubt. A man has a perfect right to proclaim a theory of any sort, or to discuss his doubts. But that is not preaching. ‘Give me the benefit of your convictions, if you have any. Keep your doubts to yourself; I have enough of my own,’ said Goethe. We are never preaching when we are hazarding speculations. Of course we do so. We are bound to speculate sometimes. I sometimes say: ‘I am speculating; stop taking notes.’ Speculation is not preaching. Neither is the declaration of negations preaching. Preaching is the proclamation of the Word, the truth as the truth has been revealed.’*
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Co 4:5–6). Soli Deo Gloria!
*Stott, John R. W. (1994-01-01). Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today (p.82- 85). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. Kindle Edition.