I want to be a great preacher. Usually, I want to be a great preacher for the benefit of my people and the glory of God but sometimes I want to be great because of my own selfish pride. If you are anything like me in this regard I don’t think we should not want to be great because of our sinful pride but we should repent of our pride while trying to be great for the glory of God. In fact Jesus, in Mark 10, seems to encourage the desire to be great.
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45
Jesus encourages the desire to be great but he also redefines what greatness is. Greatness, according to Jesus, is serving like he did. So our desire to be great preachers is a good desire if we are trying to be great to serve our people.
But what makes great preaching? Why are David Cook, Tim Keller, John Piper, Ian Powell, William Taylor, Matt Chandler, Rico Tice and Al Stewart all great preachers even though their preaching styles and there personalities are vastly different? Why was John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Stott and Spurgeon great even though their preaching styles and preaching methodology was different? What makes great preaching?
I think there are four things that makes great preaching great and I will be blogging about those in the next few blogs. The first thing that I think makes great preaching is faithfulness. I think we need to be faithful in 3 areas:
1. Faithful to the Scriptures
No preacher who believes that Bible would say they want to be unfaithful to the scriptures but what does faithfulness to the scriptures really look like? I think it means two things. Firstly, it means that we are working hard to say what the text says not what we want the text to say. Our job is to preach the passage not make a passage or passages fit the ideas we want to convey. The second thing faithfulness to the scriptures means is that we work hard to put the passage with in the framework of the story of the Bible. So we make sure we show our people how the passages in the OT are pointing to or fulfilled by Jesus and we make sure that we don’t rip stories out of their historical context but seek to faithfully show that context.
2. Faithful to the Gospel
We are faithful to the gospel when every sermon that we preach mentions the gospel. Or another way I have heard it put is that we are faithful to the gospel when Jesus is the hero of every sermon. If we don’t preach the gospel in every sermon we fall into one of two errors. The first is we preach legalism. “Do this because the Bible tells you to do it is the cry of the legalistic preacher.” The second trap we may fall into is to preach moralistic therapeutic deism. That is to say we will preach morals which seek to help or heal a person and in so doing present a God that is far off who hasn’t really don’t anything for us. If we fall into either of these two traps we are no longer faithful preachers and we are preaching another gospel. Faithful preaching is where every sermon preaches the gospel.
Faithful to our People and their Lives.
We are faithful to our people when we preach to them and their lives and not to some imaginary group of people or preaching in response to the academics that we read in preparation for the sermon. To be faithful to my people I need to understand them and understand their culture and help them see how the gospel, as revealed in the passage I am preaching on, intersects with their lives and the surrounding culture. This doesn’t mean I have to know all the latest shows, movies, books and songs on the radio (I know I don’t). It does mean that I will be seeking to understand the heart issues of the people in my church and the people we are seeking to reach. When I craft a sermon which has no thoughtful application, no illustrations to clarify points and bring them home and is communicated in a way which my people can;t connect with I have not been faithful. I may have exgeted a text correctly but I probably have given an expository lecture not a faithful Biblical sermon. Faithful preaching is faithful to the lives of the people I am preaching to.
The first step to being a great preacher is faithfulness. This will mean a lot of hard work in the study and a lot of hard work with our people understanding them and our culture. But that hard work will pay off as people see how great and beautiful God and his gospel is and they are inspired and encouraged to live lives that glorify him.
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