For a few years I puzzled why Paul known as preaching “foolishness” in 1 Corinthians 1:21. Preaching is the fantastic means by which the Spirit saves and sanctifies sinners, the tactic by which the Lord builds his church. So how might he consult with it as folly?
After preaching for a few many years now, I’ve come to know Paul’s paradoxical descriptor a bit higher. I feel he refers back to the “foolishness of preaching” as a result of the world sees it exactly that manner. No shock there.
Right here’s what’s stunning: Christians have typically seen preaching the identical manner—as foolishness that needs to be abolished. The reformers fought to recuperate preaching because the central act of Christian worship after centuries of sacerdotalism within the Roman Church. In newer years, different sermon substitutes have been recommended in Lord’s Day worship: drama, storytelling, music, interviews, artwork, movies and different new expertise, the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper (once more), and extra.
I feel C. S. Lewis lands near the reply in The Screwtape Letters when Uncle Screwtape offers the younger tempter, Wormwood, an ingenious technique for distracting believers: Use their penchant for boredom towards them.
Work on their horror of the Identical Previous Factor. The horror of the Identical Previous Factor is likely one of the most beneficial passions we have now produced within the human coronary heart—an countless supply of heresies in faith, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. . . . Now simply as we select and exaggerate the pleasure of consuming to provide gluttony, so we select this pure pleasantness of change and twist it into a requirement for absolute novelty.
Christians are simply bored. We are inclined to lose confidence shortly in strategies that don’t produce fast, measurable outcomes. Thus church historical past is, partly, a story of orthodoxy contending with theological and methodological novelty for first place in believing hearts. And sometimes, the devilish exercise focuses on messing with the preached Phrase.
Absolutely a person standing earlier than a gathered group, preaching the Bible for 30 minutes to an hour every week, can not accomplish a lot, we’re advised. However therein lies the foolishness: a gradual weight loss program of Christ-centered, Scripture-saturated expositional preaching is precisely what sinners must change into increasingly like Jesus. It could not appear to be a lot, nevertheless it’s every part.
And it ought to stay the centerpiece of company worship for not less than three causes.
1. The Bible bristles with preaching and preachers.
Preaching is the overwhelming witness of Scripture because the technique of speaking the phrases of God. If Scripture is the church’s regulating precept—and most Christians all through the historical past of the church have believed it’s—then that is actually the one purpose we want for protecting Sunday mornings sermon-centric.
Moses preached God’s Phrase to God’s folks, giving two prolonged expositions/exhortations in Deuteronomy on Israel’s covenant obligations. Ezra, in Nehemiah 8, took up the Torah and led Israel in “reading from the Law of God clearly, and gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8). He learn and taught the Phrase earlier than the assembled folks, who “answered ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground” (Neh. 8:6). God’s Phrase drove worship.
Jesus preached essentially the most well-known sermon of all in Matthew 5–7. Peter and Paul thundered forth with a number of the strongest sermons in historical past as recorded in Acts. The church was birthed in Acts 2 by way of gospel proclamation. After which there’s Paul’s cost to Timothy, a timeless admonition for all preachers: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones summarized the purpose nicely: “The primary task of the church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.” Scripture makes this view plain. So the actual query the church should reply right here is, “Has God really said?”
2. The preached Phrase is God’s ordained agent of transformation.
God has ordained the preached Phrase, working in unison with the Holy Spirit, as the tactic by which he turns mortal enemies into adopted sons. In Romans 10, Paul asks, “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” He solutions: “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (v. 17). How then is the Phrase of Christ to be proclaimed? By the foolishness of preaching on the lips of weak clay pots referred to as preachers. Sure, we’re weak, however he’s sturdy, and God’s work carried out God’s manner brings him glory: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).
One of the crucial highly effective illustrations of the creating energy of God’s Phrase is situated in Ezekiel 37, the place God tells the prophet to talk to the dry bones so they may reside: “O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD” (Ezek. 37:4). Instantly the bones come collectively. God breathes into the previously lifeless, and “they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” His proclaimed Phrase brings life—saving and sanctifying life—the place previously there was solely dying.
Sure, we’ve change into a visible tradition, however Christianity is a verbal religion. Don’t let the visible eat up the verbal.
The preached Phrase has at all times been God’s agent of awakening. The Reformation recovered the centrality of preaching in worship; it didn’t invent it. The early church featured highly effective preaching by way of males like Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, and Athanasius. And later, preaching spawned the First and Second Nice Awakenings by way of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley, together with scores of lesser-known males.
As expertise has improved, the decision for options to preaching has seemingly grown louder. However expertise has at all times served gospel proclamation; it hasn’t changed it. Would anybody argue that Gutenberg’s printing press was something lower than a large revival for the preached Phrase? Radio took the sound of preaching to the lots. Tv introduced it into our dwelling rooms. There are a wealth of sermons and edifying assets out there on the web, and I’m grateful for the best way God’s used them to fire up a love for sound doctrine in so many. However, preaching stays the central act of Christian worship.
Expertise will change many times. If we exchange preaching to “keep up with the times,” then our worship will, by necessity, at all times be altering. However Scripture by no means permits us to make that change.
3. The otherworldly nature of the church is seen clearly in preaching.
God calls his church to be in contrast to the world. The world ought to by no means be capable of clarify the church. We collect on Sundays from each conceivable socioeconomic background, race, area, nation—black, white, Asian, Hispanic, wealthy, poor, tall, quick, athletic, non-athletic, rural, city, suburban. And we collect to listen to a ebook proclaimed that was written hundreds of years in the past. All of God’s “ordinary” technique of grace are countercultural, and preaching isn’t any exception. He designed it this fashion so he alone would get the reward.
To say we should always dump preaching in favor or drama, video, dialogue, music, or the rest is to misconceive the character of the church and her work. In bringing us into his church, God calls us out of ourselves. Statistics present that the typical American grownup spends 10 hours a day related to media; are church buildings sensible to accommodate that pattern? Wouldn’t or not it’s higher to name us away from our smartphones and tablets for 2 hours every week (out of 168) to listen to a phrase from the Lord?
Real Christian worship is not an expertise that may be simulated (or changed) by any artifical factor, regardless of how ingenious. Sure, we’ve change into a visible tradition, however Christianity is a verbal religion, so we should not let the visible eat up the verbal.
Preach the Phrase
I belief that these calling for the abolition of preaching imply nicely, however to say preaching wants changing strikes me as extra audience-driven than Phrase-driven. To say preaching is outmoded appears to disclaim the deepest want of the human coronary heart—rescue from sin and self—and to affirm the primacy of felt wants and preferences. To argue that mediocre preachers needs to be changed by slicker, savvier communicators, or one thing higher and maybe stronger, is to neglect that God’s energy flows by way of the unlikely conduit of human weak spot (2 Cor. 12:10).
As Screwtape advised his nephew, we’re simply horrified by the Identical Previous Factor—until that factor facilities on us. The Jews of Paul’s day demanded indicators and the Greeks clamored for knowledge, however Paul gave them what they actually wanted:
However we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to the Gentiles, however to those that are known as, each Jews and Greeks, Christ the ability of God and the knowledge of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than males, and the weak spot of God is stronger than males. (1 Cor. 1:23–25)
Sinners have at all times wanted transformation by way of God’s Phrase faithfully proclaimed. That hasn’t modified. And Scripture itself makes this precedence number-one for the gathered church. Why would we dare give God’s folks the rest?