By Michael C. Mack
We decided to focus on “biblical preaching” for this year’s annual Easter issue. The need is as great as ever to “preach the Word.”
I hope this issue serves as a sort of “preaching guide” for our readers. Four of our feature articles provide powerful, practical, thought-provoking principles for preaching. (Amazingly, alliteration is not one of them.) Our e2 and Metrics columns also focus on preaching this month.
We seek to restore, among several things, biblical preaching. To that end, I’d like to consider two vital preaching principles I don’t hear discussed much. Perhaps we take these principles for granted, but I think it’s prudent to identify them.
1. Preaching Belongs to More Than a Favored Few (The ‘Preacherhood’ of All Believers). I recently read a Christian Standard article from November 13, 1940, by J. H. Dampier, then minister at First Church of Christ in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. He said, “Preaching is not the obligation of a chosen few. Preaching is the personal testimony of every believer. It is the universal obligation upon all who name the name of Christ. . . . [However,] preaching has become the vocation of a favored few, and that to the hurt of the church.” Dampier continued: “The preachers that we need are as numerous as the membership of the church.”
This was the way of the New Testament church. The apostle Paul was speaking to “anyone [who] is in Christ” when he said God had “committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17, 19). The early church turned their attitude into action: “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4, my emphasis).
Yes, some “chosen few” have been called to certain leadership roles in the church, and prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are among them, but let’s not forget their responsibility is “to equip [God’s] people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). Let’s be sure to equip all of our people to preach the Word wherever they go.
2. Your Preaching Is Not Your Own (If You Want to Produce Results). Jesus taught a vital preaching principle through his attitude, actions, and words. Like me, you’ve probably noticed, especially in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ total dependence on the Father. In my old print Bible, I’ve highlighted verses such as John 4:34; 5:19, 30; 6:38, 44; and 10:37, but two verses especially apply to preaching: “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me” (7:16), and “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (8:28).
What is your ultimate source, preacher? Your imagination? Reading books? Research and study? A preaching group? A website? All these may be helpful, but if we want our preaching to bear fruit, much fruit, fruit that will last, we must remember our ultimate source is the True Vine. Don’t take this for granted. Our abiding relationship with God through Christ is the source of great, life-changing, kingdom-expanding preaching and teaching.
Dampier also pointed to the product, or fruit, of our preaching: “To restore preaching to its proper place in the Restoration movement is our present problem,” he said. “We can not say we have restored the preaching of the apostolic age until we are getting like results.”
We often look at the early church in Acts and try to figure out what practices they used to produce such incredible results and growth. But perhaps we look to the wrong sources of success. Practices and programs can be beneficial, but the early church leaders modeled a total reliance on God for their ministries and preaching:
“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11).
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4, 5).
I’m saying nothing new here. But if you’re like me, you need a regular reminder and some everyday encouragement to rely on the Word (John 1:1) to preach the Word (Mark 2:2; 2 Timothy 4:2). Let’s be sure our main source is the “source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9).