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Is preaching past its sell-by date?

Here are four reasons that preaching is losing much of its prestige amongst us.

FRESH BREEZE AUTHOR Will Graham 24 JANUARY 2015 22:55 h GMT+1
preacher Preacher

The early church was birthed into the world with the Word of God pierced into her tongue. And five hundred years ago, when the Protestant Reformation hit Europe with full force, preaching again came to the forefront. Every revival generation has known something of the power of Holy Spirit inspired preaching.

So why is it then that preaching is so drastically downplayed today? How come proclaiming God’s Word has somehow gone out of fashion? Is preaching well and truly past its sell-by date?

Now keep in mind that when I refer to preaching I’m not talking about 15-minute long ‘feel good’ counselling sessions that give your lovely little ego a massage. No sir! Those types of sermons are very much in vogue. I’m talking about doctrinal messages stemming from rigorous biblical exposition. Messages that put the spotlight on what God wants to say and not on what the congregation wants to hear! They seem to be none to popular at the moment.

Here are four reasons that preaching is losing much of its prestige amongst us.

I.- Apathy

The first reason I find for this downgrading of preaching has to do with the demands of the people. So many folk appear to have no spiritual hunger for the deeper things of God whatsoever. They won’t budge an eyelid if false doctrine is preached on a weekly basis; but they sure will blaze with unholy anger if they don’t get out of the service in time for Sunday lunch. With such apathy on blatant display, many preachers have a hard time opening their mouths and letting loose the Word of the Lord. But when revival comes, nothing can tame the preacher’s tongue. Not hell or high water! Preach he must regardless of whosoever opposes him!

II.- Entertainment

A second reason would be our contemporary fascination with entertainment. This worldly spirit has been attempting to force the Evangelical pulpit into blind submission for quite some time now. Rather than gathering to pray, read the Scriptures, celebrate the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) and hear the preached Word of God; our contemporary philosophy of the church has radically spiralled out of control. Now the chief quest is to keep the people in high spirits and thoroughly entertained. After all, we don’t want the offerings to go down; do we now? 

Thus the new golden calf is in our age is church growth. And what’s the quickest and coolest way to pack an auditorium to overflowing but by a light mood, celebrities, Youtube videos and plenty of singing? Forget preaching! And if there is to be any space for a ‘word’, make sure it’s short and sweet and makes everybody feel tingly.   

III.- Music

Another third reason – somewhat related to entertainment- would be quite a surprising one. I refer to music, Christian music. I wouldn’t venture to call it Christian worship. In the measure that the pulpit ministry is downplayed, something else must invariably take its place. Today that something else is Christian music. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to singing. But even singing can become a hindrance for God’s Word when it becomes more prominent than the pulpit

Yesterday’s Christian heroes were Luther, Zwingli and Calvin, the Puritans, Whitefield, Wesley and Edwards, Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones. They were first and foremost Bible preachers. Today’s Christian giants, however, are praise leaders, worship teams and Christian singers. Music has become more important than theology. Feelings are elevated above sound doctrine. That’s why the God preached about nowadays is no longer the Sovereign One of Scripture, but the Barbie Lord and his Teddy Bear son Jesus. Do a quick survey of your local church. How much time is dedicated to music to get everybody in the mood? And how much time is given to the meticulous preaching of the Bible? 

Back in 1959 Lloyd-Jones had already complained of this “appalling” and “alarming” reality. To his dismay he spoke, “I have even taken part myself in a religious conference –regarded as the greatest Evangelical conference in the United States of America- where at the commencement of every service, which was meant to be biblical, and teaching, and uplifting, there was forty minutes of singing of various types and kinds. Xylophone solos, organ solos, people singing, all forty minutes of it. There was a short prayer, no Scripture reading at all, and then a brief time for the message.”

And what was his analysis after listening to forty minutes of music? “It is not like that in times of revival, believe me. And it will not be like that again when God graciously has mercy upon us, and looks upon us, and visits us. I ask you solemnly, is this a time for entertainment? Is it not a time, rather, for fasting, for sackcloth and ashes, for waiting upon God in agony of soul? You cannot mix singing with that, these things do not go together [...] The whole state of the world surely says that this is not a time for singing, this is a time for preaching”. (i)

I couldn’t agree more.

IV.- Preachers

A final observation about the current dearth in expository preaching would be the preachers themselves. On the one hand, many messengers display so much indifference towards the Bible. And on the other hand, so many are ignorant of it. Both tendencies tend to feed off each other. Why is it so hard to have a good conversation with so many preachers about the glorious doctrines of Scripture? 

In my travels as an itinerant preacher and in the Faculty of Theology where I teach in Córdoba (Spain) it is ever so easy to strike up a chat with pastors about church sizes, finances, religious celebrities, ministerial projects, upcoming conferences and friends we have in common; but it is nigh on impossible to talk about Scripture, doctrine, the Lord Jesus or the glory of God. Why is this so? I wonder: are we truly enamoured with the beauty of Christ or is Jesus just a Sunday thing we’re obliged to talk about?

It takes a fierce passion for God to drive men to their knees to learn of His unfathomable depths. Those theologians are the men who do my heart so much good! It is such souls that never cease to ignite and enthral me. I consider them my fellow pilgrims. They are treasure chests sent by the Lord. And when I find one, I am sure to never let them get too far from my sight. They are forever bubbling forth with new pearls uncovered in the Word. What a delight to learn from them!


Braemar Pulpit View / Charles Clegg_(Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0)

History persuades me that Christian preaching must experience something of a renewal before the church as a whole may undergo a profound revival. We need to get the pulpit back into the centre of our assemblies and preach as men possessed by God. Nothing –not apathy nor entertainment nor Christian music nor the preachers themselves- must encumber the free flow of the Word of the Lord.

Oh, for God to speak as a King through His heralds once more! Oh, for weight, authentic spiritual weight, in the pulpit! Oh, for a revival –an intense and long lasting revival- of expository preaching! 

True preaching is never past its sell-by date. Why, it’s fresher than tomorrow’s manna.


(i) LLOYD-JONES, Martyn, Revival (Pickering and Inglis: Hants, 1986), pp. 63-64.




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15:37 h
Thanks, Will. Preaching is neither FOR SALE nor a set of rules mercilessly impossed. The Message we preach is Jesus Christ himself, 1º Cor.1:23. All members of the body of Christ (the only true church) need preaching like flesh and bones. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, Romans 10:17. We grow in faith on Jesus Christ Gospel as our daily food; all other 'junk food' makes us get fat, unhealthy. May God bless you brother.

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