What Are We Preaching?
How is preaching this Scripture relevant? How is a specific text in the greater context of the inspired Scriptures relevant to me? These questions are constantly at the forefront of my mind as I study and prepare to preach.
As a bi-vocational Pastor (who was well into my thirties when my church confirmed Gods call to preach), I sought teaching from other pastors in how to preach. This came in the form of mentorship from senior Pastors on our team and resources available from respected Bible teachers abroad. I also had the opportunity to attend a Pastor’s conference early on that has had a lasting effect on me in what I preach. The theme emphasized at this conference was, “The Inerrancy of Scripture,” and the take-home message was seared in my mind and heart: preach the Bible!
This is not news to any church-going Christian right? That’s why we go to church.
In Colossians 1:24-29, Paul shares with this church that it is his joy, burden, and responsibility to preach.
Paul’s reason for preaching resonates with me: “[The church], of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known” (Col. 1:25). This “stewardship from God” is the responsibility that I feel toward the call to serve. My ultimate Master will one day require an answer from me as to how I handled this call.
What do I strive to preach? The entire Word of God. Of course, this task will never be accomplished comprehensively in any preacher’s life, but this is the goal we all strive towards: “to make the Word of God fully known.”
This task cannot be accomplished without knowing it myself – in my own heart and life. I cannot stand in the pulpit and preach something God has not shown me in Scripture and granted some degree of understanding with my finite mind.
John C. Maxwell has coined a principle for leadership: The Law of the Lid. This law basically says that those whom you lead will likely achieve an effectiveness one level below your leadership ability.
I take this principle into the study and preaching of the Bible. While the Holy Spirit can, at any time and in the way He chooses, illumine truth for a specific individual, I must teach what I have learned. I cannot learn without immersing myself in the Bible (1 Timothy 4:15), and I cannot teach something I do not know in my own heart and mind. My preaching must be an overflow of my study applied in my own life. If those who listen are to grow, I must make the Word of God fully known.
The writer to the Hebrews calls the message, “So great a salvation.” Paul told the Colossians that God has chosen to show us as Gentiles “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (emphasis mine). Christ in Christians! This message has the power to strengthen feeble knees and faint hearts. It has the power to overcome addictions and strongholds. It is the power which gives us inexplicable joy on the mountaintops, and comfort in life’s dark valleys. Christ saving and living in Christians is the vehicle by which God has chosen to bring glory to Himself! This is the message I must preach.
Colossians 1:28 summarizes the goal of preaching: “[Jesus] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
We preach warning and teaching with wisdom. For what reason? So the preacher can “present everyone mature in Christ.”
The additional accountability placed on Bible teachers (James 3:1) also serves as a filter for any content that is taught. An uninspired, off the cuff comment can have far-reaching negative consequences. Keeping one finger on the Scripture text during the entire sermon is a sure way to stay on track and encourage my listeners to focus on the Word.
Lastly, from Colossians 1:29, it is only in the strength which God gives that I preach. “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Note the words Paul uses to describe the work: toil, and struggle. Need this be taken in a negative sense? No, but nothing good comes easily. I can say that the old adage is true for me: no pain, no gain. What is sweat out in the study of the Word and in prayer is the joy revealed in the pulpit. All the lost hours of sleep and the personal time sacrificed are nothing compared to the eternal weight of the gospel and the forced reliance on “His energy that he powerfully works within me!”