Where have all the preachers gone? Biblical, Christ-centered preaching seems to have fallen on hard times. Too many modern pulpits have morphed into platforms for religious motivational speakers, cultural communicators, and trendy entertainers. If they use Scripture at all in their messages, they do so the way a chef uses spices. They use Scripture to slightly season their messages rather than allowing the biblical text to be the solid meat of the main course.
The Apostle Paul warned his favorite son in the ministry, Timothy, about a coming day that describes the time in which we live. In the last chapter of the last epistle Paul wrote, he penned these legendary words:
I solemnly 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; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim 4:1–5)
While it would be impossible to exegetically unpack this amazing text in this brief article, suffice it to say, Paul believed in biblical preaching. Regardless of what was happening in the culture, he encouraged Timothy to preach the Word of God. Timothy was to explain the Word and then apply the Word. He was to reprove and rebuke. He was also told to exhort his listeners using patience and instruction. He was NOT to tickle the listeners’ ears with feel-good, motivational talks. Rather, Timothy was to preach the sobering facts of Scripture—man without Christ is lost and separated from God during this life, and if he dies that way, he’ll be lost eternally in hell. Timothy needed to preach the Gospel because people needed to hear the truth so they could respond in repentance and faith and be saved!
Paul understood that even though culture changes over the centuries, man is still basically the same. He’s a sinner in need of a Savior. And because the only Savior is Jesus, and the Scriptures are the primary means by which Jesus is revealed to mankind, Timothy needed to “preach the Word!”
Preaching will never become passé because God’s method of sharing the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus with lost people is preaching. Preaching occurs when God’s Word flows from His heart through a Spirit-filled preacher to people who need a word from God. That will never become archaic or inessential. People without Christ will always be lost no matter what century it is. And God’s method to get the Gospel to them is preaching. That will never change.
Mankind cannot know God unless someone preaches God’s truth from Scripture. Paul told the Corinthians, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21). Indeed, the content of Gospel preaching might sound foolish to a lost person. A lost person might not view himself as a sinner who needs a Savior. He might not see how Jesus, the God-Man, dying on a cross as an atoning sacrifice, could be essential to his life. Yet, that pivotal act of salvation that so many in our day consider to be foolish is the very wisdom of God and the heart of the Gospel of Jesus. So, when a preacher preaches that Gospel (Good News), he literally unleashes the power of God unto salvation.
Some things might change in churches over the years. No doubt people will sing different styles of worship songs. Melodies will change, but the message shouldn’t. Worship songs should be biblically sound. Yet biblical songs are not enough to guarantee a true worship service. People need to hear a preacher preach the Word of God. Preaching the Word is the primary means by which the Gospel is proclaimed. That’s why preaching, not singing, must always be the centerpiece of any legitimate Christian worship service.
As long as there is a heaven and a hell, preachers and preaching will be necessary. As long as people need to be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, there will be a need for preachers and preaching. And as long as Christians need to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, there will be a need for preachers and preaching. The church cannot survive without biblical preachers and biblical preaching. God has always used God-called men to preach and proclaim His Word both to His people and to lost people, and He always will.
Without a doubt, preaching has fallen on hard times. But rest assured that God will see to it that a revival of biblical preaching breaks out in days to come. God will call someone somewhere to proclaim His Word. Just when it looks like the fire of the Gospel might flicker out, God will sovereignly raise up an Elijah, a Jeremiah, a Paul, an Augustine, a Luther, a Calvin, a Wesley, a Whitefield, a Spurgeon, or a Billy Graham with heaven’s fire burning in his bones.
God is in charge of history. Indeed, history is literally “His story.” Thus, God is the One who will sovereignly continue to raise up preachers from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue. They will preach the Word and exalt Jesus Christ across this sinful world until the end of the age.
Nothing has ever stopped Gospel preaching. And thanks be to God, nothing ever will.
Steve Gaines is the Pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.