As a minister of the Gospel and Bible college and seminary prof who has taught preaching (it’s called “homiletics”) over the years, I’ll tell you something that frightens me… It’s that those who preach, and those who hear preaching would simply begin to view “preaching as a performance!” That both preacher and hearer would just seek to craft inspirational presentations, based loosely on Scripture, targeting contemporary topics, designed to capture the attention of modern hearers, interestingly illustrated, aptly supported with media and drama, and persuasively delivered. But their messages would be absent an authentic “prophetic voice,” fidelity to the clear teaching of God’s word, and the unmistakable “anointing” of the Holy Spirit! It would just be “preaching as a performance!”
There’s a passage of Scripture that addresses my concern…
God spoke to Ezekiel about the issue… Here are His words…
“As for you, son of man, your people talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of their houses – they say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it! … Behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it!” (From Ezekiel 33:30-32)
Listen! As a minister of the Gospel – a preacher of God’s word – I cannot be satisfied to simply receive compliments at the door of a house of worship after I have preached (“Pastor, that was a wonderful, uplifting message today – what a powerful sermon!”)! The questions I have to wrestle with are… Were lives changed through the proclamation of God’s word? Am I confident that anyone heard from God today through the message I shared? Did anyone come to know the Living Christ in a personal way through the Gospel? Were needs met, lives challenged, and God’s will furthered though what I shared?
Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT advocating slipshod preparation and careless, sloppy presentation! But I am resisting an approach that simply reduces the role of the preacher to “preaching as a performance!”
Seems to me I hear the echo of an old apostle to a young preacher… “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: PREACH THE WORD! … reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths!” (From 2 Timothy 4:1-4)
Believe me when I say, “I want to be sure that those who hear the messages I prepare and preach, above all else, to have heard from God!”