No one can deny that the digital revolution in the past two decades has found its way into the art of preaching. Through livestreams, podcasts, and blogs (words that would be alien to our predecessors a few years ago) are ubiquitous and breathtaking in their volume, one thing hasn’t changed: The incarnational power of live preaching. It’s the power of now. The pastor passionately can declare to the listener, “Now is the Day of Salvation.”
The preaching experience should always be a divine transactional experience in which the preacher, the audience, and God Himself meet and transformation occurs. The preaching event is a delivery of God’s message but it is also an act of worship for the preacher. Most commonly, preaching takes place with a preacher and an audience on an occasion known as corporate worship. In the past, there has been an assumption on the part of some that the worship is primarily what happens before a pastor steps up to speak. “There is a worship leader, and there is a preacher,” some would say. But we know that preaching is not only a part of corporate worship, but it is the apex of the experience. Everything that happens during the worship service must lead us to the opening of the Word and the climatic call to transformation and change, hopefully leaving people more in love with Jesus than they did when they entered the sanctuary. It’s not a compartmentalized experience. It is a synthesized experience that invokes the power of God to do what only He can. Still, above all, is the preaching of God’s Word. God still speaks through His Word and instructs, convicts, convinces, comforts, challenges, and draws people unto Himself.
The importance of preaching in corporate worship cannot be understated. It is the preeminent portion of corporate worship when God is speaking to His people. While the preacher is important, he is simply the tool that God uses to deliver His message. Thus, it is imperative that the preacher is prepared for the monumental task of being used by God. With all the resources we have in preaching today, one might think that there are short-cuts in the process. For the casual, formulaic communicator, that may be true. But not for the preacher.
Preaching is a covenantal partnership with God. This means that the process of seeking a word from God remains primary. This is why the labor of prayer is so immersive in the life of a called preacher. It is the first step a preacher must take before approaching the sacred desk. In prayer, he hears from the very heart of God.
Secondly, the preacher must invest time in the Word of God so as to have the substance of what God desires to be delivered to His people. Like the old adage of financial wealth-building, we must invest early and often to grasp the spiritual riches of God’s Word.
Thirdly, the preacher must be willing to absolve himself of his own desires and preoccupations so that he can be an empty and open instrument to be used by God for His purpose. It requires a consecration of our time and attention throughout the process.
Fourth, the preacher must clearly and concisely present God’s message with all the abilities that God has given. This is a process of selecting from his preparation the seminal message God has for his people void of all unnecessary or distracting elements in content, delivery, and approach.
Fifth, with everything in you, deliver God’s message with fervor and passion. It requires the preacher to leave it all—his passion, his message, and his invitation in the pulpit and on the altar.
Finally, he must offer those in corporate worship an invitation to follow in obedience to what God has said to them. Public decisions to follow Christ in obedience is a crucial aspect of corporate worship. It is the invitation to follow Jesus Christ in Salvation that must be central in our message because that is the message of our Lord. He came to seek and to save the lost, He does not desire for any to perish! The purpose of preaching is to point people to God’s message and that is that He desires a relationship with whosoever will call on His name. Preaching is a call to salvation in Jesus Christ which is the beginning of a relationship with Jesus. It is also a call to walk in step with Jesus on a daily basis which brings fullness of joy and maturity in one’s spiritual walk with the Lord!
I’m thankful that messages are recorded, printed, and replicated in other communication platforms, but the greatest platform is and will always be, the one behind the altar of the local church, where people come to receive a fresh word from God. When preachers labor through the process on their knees, the Word accomplishes what style or technique never could. It is a movement toward eternity released by the powerful Word of God.
Roc Collins, Ph.D., is the Director of Strategic Objectives for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.