No, to refuse my words in this context is to refuse Christ Himself. Here is a vital question. What is the context in which such feeble and faltering human words carry divine authority?
House Church Talk - Exalting the Office of the Preacher
I rarely expect teenagers to notice my words let alone submit to them as divinely authoritative. The first thing to say is that the initiative lies entirely in the hands of the Speaking God. No human technique conjures Christ into the upper room. Equally no locked doors can keep Him out! Revelation is always grace. So then, perhaps we should rephrase our question. But, How is it that God chooses to speak through our human words of witness? Here is my central conviction:. This is the key context. And we must be wise to perceive when this context holds.
We still listen as Bereans to discern its biblical character Acts If proclamation fails these tests it fails to be proclamation. Yet where Christ is proclaimed biblically there we can and we must! Before we go on, you will notice that this context is not an institutional or situational context. The context I am putting forward could apply to any number of situations — a bible study, a drink with friends, a greeting card, even a text message.
We can speak words of immeasurable comfort to one another in a thousand different situations.
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It is not that genuine proclamation only occurs in the Sunday sermon or only from the lips of the ordained. Not at all. But there especially we are to prayerfully expect the voice of the living Christ. In the rest of this paper I will just tease out some implications of this central conviction:. We proclaim Him Colossians The point of the sermon is not to inspire certain feelings, to convey certain doctrines, to enjoin certain ethics, to dissect certain passages. The point of the proclaimed word is precisely the point of the written word — to witness the eternal Word See John We preach Christ from Luke or Ecclesiastes.
He is as vital for sinners as bread to the famished. He is as available to sinners as the bread on the table. And in preaching, as in the sacraments, He is handed over to sinners for their nourishment. Where Christ is received by faith, proclamation has done its work. Where Christ is not graciously held out to the congregation the preacher has spoken in vain and the people go hungry. Application on this understanding is a discrete portion of the sermon.
To Preach or Not to Preach: The Church's Urgent Question
Once the preacher is done explaining, then come exhortations about our practical response. Now besides being a suspect view of sanctification, this betrays a deficient view of revelation. And Christ? Where is Christ on this understanding? We leave the communion rail or rise from the sermon not so much savouring Christ as resolving to improve. Not glorying in His work but plotting our own. But what if we took to heart the theology of revelation outlined here?
In that case application would be by the pointed driving home of the gospel. On this model, application is not what we must do on account of the word. Rather, application is what the word itself is doing to us and in us. The Word is being applied to our hearts in lively, surprising, evocative, nourishing ways to the end that He might be trusted.
We hear in order to believe Rom This is the work of God — faith John The work of God for which the preacher aims is not so much what the congregation will do on Monday morning having been inspired by the word. The work of God is what God Himself does to the congregation right there in the Sunday sermon. It is a work which we cannot perform as preachers but to which we are called nonetheless.
In prayerful dependence we follow the way of witness in the Scriptures as they point to Christ. And we point, too. With excitement, with passion, with entreaty. Vol 38 No 1 How to Cite. David C.
Homiletic , [S. ISSN Date accessed: 03 july He nearly dropped his newspaper. I like my pastor a lot, but can you tell me why his sermons are so boring? As he and I began to chat, I immediately sensed his sincerity. His was a question I needed to think about and answer. A Lilly-endowed study of more than 10, Christian laypeople revealed that while 78 percent of them have never discussed a sermon with their preacher, church members do have strong opinions and deep hopes for their pastor's preaching.
The study found that:. And yet, the truth is I have never met a pastor who wanted to preach a bad sermon.
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Most preachers are genuinely devoted to their craft, striving to compose meaningful and life changing messages week after week. But this desire must be paired with the reality of congregational life.
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Clergy stand on the frontline of life in its harshest form. In any given week, a death, an unexpected illness, a parishioner crisis or community disaster can simultaneously fall upon one or several members of a congregation. The critical time a pastor has carved out for sermon preparation is quickly filled with their important calling to be present and offer much-needed pastoral ministry. Caregivers often put themselves last. Clergy are no exception. When Saturday night rolls around, a pastor can be exhausted from the week's unanticipated emergencies and still have hours of preparation to complete for Sunday morning's message.
For pastors to fulfill their calling to preach transformative sermons, it's important that this task is shared by the congregation. While preachers may be deprived of the preparation time they need week in and week out, there are days and weeks when preachers can steal away, sit with the biblical text, pray and ponder.
The Problem With Preaching
Clergy need the freedom to take this holy time without questioning or judgment from the congregation. A wise congregational president or church council will schedule regular preaching retreats on the pastor's calendar, arranging for a supply preacher and an on-call pastoral care provider, so their minister has a long weekend to work ahead with the biblical interpretation and study that build great sermons. When preachers have this sacred opportunity to live with the biblical text, it frees them to make lively and engaging connections with the world that we all live in on an ongoing basis.
Some seminary homiletics departments teach their students to live this engagement with the text while they are still in seminary. This "dislocated exegesis" serves as another classroom for preaching students to study the text within the realities parishioners face everyday. Recently I led an adult forum at a Manhattan congregation known for its great preaching. This was a safe place for me to ask active church members about the elements of a good sermon without fearing it would become a discussion of disappointments regarding their Sunday pulpit.