“We like hearing good preaching around here.” That is a fairly common phrase in my setting (the rural south), but the meaning often differs greatly from person to person. “Good preaching” can mean anything from sheer brevity, to a half-hour of entertaining stories, to a relentlessly positive motivational message (I remember well an older man I worked with during college insisting that I ought to model my preaching after Norman Vincent Peale!). But what does the Bible itself consider to be good preaching?
Large books have been written on this subject without exhausting the subject, but I wanted to begin our three-week study of Preaching and the Christian life by attempting to answer it thoroughly enough to provide some “handles” for the subject. Though I am far from a master preacher, as I read my Bible here are what I consider to be four non-negotiables I shared with my own church.
1. God’s Word is proclaimed clearly
The only reason that we speak as preachers is because God has spoken. Apart from what he has revealed about himself, we simply have nothing to say. That is why preaching must never be replaced with simple home-spun wisdom or friendly advice, or the opinions of the preacher. This was the charge Paul pressed Timothy with in 2 Tim 3:1-4:5, but I think it is described most succinctly in Nehemiah 8:8. “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” Albert Mohler catches the spirit of this well when he summarizes expository preaching as a practice of “Read, explain, repeat.” (He is Not Silent) Whatever else takes place behind that pulpit, if God’s own Word has not been clearly and accurately proclaimed, we have failed as preachers.
2. Christ Crucified is Held High
The Gospel must permeate all that we say and do. I do not merely mean identifying the “types of Christ” throughout the OT, though this is important. I mean remembering that the point of everything is Jesus and what he has accomplished for us at the cross. We must learn what Paul meant when he determined among the Corinthians “to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (see 1 Cor 1:18-2:6) This is a lesson I continue to learn week after week: lift high the cross. We cannot merely exhort our people to “do this” and “don’t do that:” this would be very agreeable to any Muslim, Mormon, or Jew. We will very likely find ourselves shepherding a large group of hell-bound rule-keepers or pushing others to despair if Christ himself is not constantly being magnified above all. Let us be truly Christian preachers. Let us preach Christ.