Why preach? We can’t take the answer for granted. The time in which preaching is respected is largely over. One definition of preaching: to give religious or moral instruction, especially in a tedious manner. If we asked the average person to use the word preaching
From a note to Christians:
To preach at someone who does not wish to be preached at is rape. Not rape of the body, but rape of the mind and of the soul. There is no excuse for it.
Some objections to preaching:
Preaching is anachronistic – It was fine in its time but is no longer viable. It doesn’t fit our cultural reality.
Preaching is arrogant – Preaching is presumed to be intolerant, impatient, and arrogant. Preachers try to push a way of life on others. It is a threat to the sovereignty of the self – who are you to tell me anything?
Preaching is absurd – It can’t be done. A preacher offers something called Truth. This can’t be done because no human being can claim to know Truth in its objective sense. We are trapped by language and our subjective perspectives. How can a preacher claim to present truth in an objective way? Self-expression is okay; presuming to persuade others of your view of Truth crosses the line.
This problem is not new. The account of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 points to a problem: trying to make God unnecessary. God smacks them down and does a couple of things. He scatters them, and confuses their language. Postmodern thought points to this reality: plurality of culture and language.
Yet even after Babel, preaching is God’s project. It is what he does. Our authority doesn’t come from our limited perspective or opinions, but from the reality that God has spoken. There is no absurdity or arrogance if it is the Creator who is speaking. The doctrine of revelation (that God has revealed himself) gives us the confidence to preach.
Initiation – We have been created to hear. We are hardwired to hear his voice. There is a resonance when we hear God’s voice. This is corroded by sin, but it is there because we were created in his image.
Incarnation – The Word became flesh. God made himself known to us in flesh and came preaching to us. The best model for preaching is incarnational.
Inspiration – God revealed himself in print.
Illumination – The power of the Spirit is at work helping us to understand the text. God still makes himself known; we just participate in it. They are God’s words; we are only the servants.
They key is to think integration. Integration is better than balance. Balance is usually a compromise in which you lose something. Integrity involves wholeness (integer), integrity. With integration we bring polarized things together while maintaining their integrity.
Some things in homiletics have been disintegrated:
- Text and today – The idea of bridging the gap between text and today (between two worlds) is somewhat helpful, but you still have to get them back over the bridge again. When you get back to today – real life – how do you take what you learned back in the ancient world? Preaching can come off like archeology. It’s interesting but in the end it just looks like broken pottery. What are you supposed to do with it? In the end, we need to remember that the text is today. I’m not as interested in what Paul said to Philippi as what God is saying to us today through what Paul wrote to the Philippians. God is still speaking.
- Head and heart – Some streams emphasize the intellect first and then community. Celtics invited people into community and then moved to the intellect. It’s like the sports car that we love instinctively and then try to sell on its data: we have fallen in love with it before we ever know the facts about it. We have separated head and heart; he need to integrate them because that is how God created us.
So why do I preach? I went through the whole postmodern struggle myself. I preach for a few reasons:
- Because God still speaks – This gives us confidence to preach.
- Because listeners need to be loved – The best preachers love their listeners. They don’t go to war with them. You can win people by overpowering them but you really haven’t won.
- Because I can help – There are many definitions of preaching. Mine is simple: preaching is helping people hear from God.