The Objective for Preaching
The Objective for Preaching
by David Cox
It is amazing to me just how off-base so many preachers can get. There is a God given purpose for a church to exist. When you think about it, we (pastors and churches) are the work of God. God is not doing much outside of Christians, ministers, and churches. Maybe somebody can make a case that He does work outside of that framework, but for every little bit He works outside of that frame, He works thousands of times more within that frame of the church.
But we need to always keep our heads clear, and focus on what is God’s purpose for us. We can summarize the work of God (done mostly through ministers, members, and the church) as being the salvation of souls, and their edification.
Evangelism comes before Salvation
We must insist that evangelism comes before salvation as a rule. If that is true, and we are the work of God, then our work must be saturated with giving the gospel to the world, and reassuring that our own are truly saved. The hardest false religion to fight against is the concept that a person is saved when he really is not.
Saved people have a profile that they fit 100% of the time. A saved person is somebody who has a personal relationship with Christ, and fosters that relationship always. That means that they have that relationship as a priority in their life, and they are dedicating time, energy, resources, and activity to that relationship.
When we look at this from a preacher’s perspective, we need to understand that people do not get saved (as a rule) without the clear presence of the Gospel. That means somebody actually explaining the pertenant verses on how a person gets saved, what does he “do”. Salvation is not by works, but by faith, and that being the case, preachers must declare the work of Christ on the cross for our salvation. If we base our hope in that work of Christ, we are saved. If we never clearly understand that point, Christ saves us because he died on the cross for us, then we are not saved.
Beyond the presenation of the gospel, there has to be a pressing by the preacher. This is an emotional exhortation for the unsaved to put their trust in the trustworthy of the Savior. The cold presentation of facts may do the job, but the hot exhortation (after presentation of the facts) of making a decision, of turning over one’s life to the Savior is always a better way.
Edification means doing the job better
Spiritual edification is another element that is essential for real Christians. Unfortunately, many preachers think or have deceived themselves into believing that the giving out of information is edification. It is not. There must be a purpose behind the information given. There must be an overall plan, and that overall plan must be understood and followed. What is that plan?
We are to be morally like God, like Jesus Christ, a more nearer example that lived among men and lived the morality that pleases God. He is the embodiment of the morality of God. When we teach and preach as ministers of God, we must press strongly the need for change. Our sermons must have an application, and that application needs an emotional appeal for people to stop ignoring or doing wrong, and to start doing right. This is an essential element in good biblical preaching.
What is biblical preaching?
The first element of biblical preaching is that it is taken from Scripture. It is very disheartening to see preachers either never mention a Scripture, never exposit any Scripture, or never “dump and run” (they read several excellent Scriptures on their topic, and having done “their duty” as preacher to use the Bible, now they proceed to preach a sermon without integrating those Scriptures into the fiber and thrust of the sermon).
We have to add here that many a sermon uses Scripture, but it is better termed “abuses Scripture”. The preacher gets a thesis he wants, and then he twists Scripture to say what he wants it to says. This has to be avoided at all costs. When pro-homosexual preachers treat Sodom and Gomorrah as being some other than a condemnation of homosexuality, this is a grave sin. The overview of Scripture as well as other passages present a same sex relationship as being fornication (general sexual sin). We do not “use” (or abuse) Scripture to get it to say what we want. We seek what God has said, understanding it, we conform to Christ.
The second element of biblical preaching is that it is clear and focused on a central premise (a theme, a thesis, a proposition the hearer needs to consider and adopt in his own life) which saturates the sermon. In other words, a colage of Scriptures that are unrelated is not biblical preaching. We need to have a definite purpose where we are going in the sermon, and that purpose should be clear from the introduction, and very presence through every pace, every turn, every Bible reference. The Bible is filled with a lot of stuff, and we can say most everything is good. What is not good is to take good stuff on unrelated topics and distract the present presentation with it. There has to be a strong control over what is introduced in the sermon so that only what contributes strongly to the thesis is allowed, and everything else, good, bad, or ugly, is left out. There has to be a strong man’s hold on the sermon so that it does its purpose, and never gets side tracked for even a moment. Jokes, warm up material, even illustrations and sometimes even interesting things about the original language in the key passages need to be kept out of the sermon if they do not strongly enforce and push the audience to the desired conclusion (purpose) of the sermon.
Even bad preachers are seen to be good preachers when they stay on topic.
Let’s be honest here. Most people don’t follow the typical sermon. They get smart parts of it, here and there. It is a rare sermon (really these are excellent biblical sermons) when the people follow the sermon from beginning to end, and get all of it. When they do, it is because the preacher is very clear in his thesis and premises (evidence). The structure has be memorable. In other words, to get evidence isn’t enough. You have to enter into a semi-debate orientation where you are proving your thesis with your evidence. Then you have to “get preachy” and apply your thesis personally to the people present, and you have exhort them (get preachy) to accept your thesis and change their life.
Sidenote: Preachers who are young and foolish, or not necessarily so young but always joking around defeat themselves before they start. The entire purpose of preaching is to form Christ in them, and they of a necessity need to see Christ in you first. This is especially true that they need to see your thesis being lived in your (the preacher’s) life first. But the bottom line is that their evaluation of you as a person is the first and foremost factor in accepting your thesis or not, no matter what evidence you present them. If they distrust you, or can “write off” what you say because they think little of you, then you have lost your case before even opening your mouth.
The third element of biblical preaching is that it proves a thesis from biblical evidence. If we look at Paul’s discourse at Mars Hill (presenting salvation to the unsaved), or Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 (the Jews killed Jesus, the Savior), we understand that these preachers had a very clear thesis that they wanted to convince the hearers of at the time.
If you don’t have a specific target, you sure not to hit anything of profit.
The very fact that so many preachers “preach” non-specific sermons and run all over the place is a condemnation that these are not men of God from the being. A biblical preacher, a man of God, will seek to accomplish the work of God through his preaching. If he has no concept of what that work is, or what he is doing in a broad overview, he is blind and foolish. He is not being used by God, but is a placeholder for a real man of God, and he is doing the work of Satan.
Isa 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
While the overall plan might have many individual and different parts, they have to work together to achieve the objective. Our objective is that we form Christ in our audience. First of all, they need to have their faith anchored in the person of Jesus Christ, and secondly, that anchor and faith must imitate Jesus our role model. Each sermon must play a part in that, and just the giving out of information is not going to do it. There must be points in the life of Christ, in our role model, in the spiritual morality that the Bible presents us, that we (preachers) must understand, and then attempt to convince our audience to likewise imitate. This has to be focused on a clear biblical thesis, and it must flow logically from the exposition of key Scriptures supporting that thesis.
The fourth element of biblical preaching is that it pushes home the thesis through emotional exhortation. We see at different times Christ’s passion for the people of Israel, and their problems. What we are doing is spiritual life-saving. We are setting in order disrupted and evil lives into following the example of Jesus Christ that in doing so, these people’s lives will now be blessed, be full, be whole. Sin destroys them, justice saves them. They need to understand how “life-saving” the message of God is to them. It is important, and it is passionately needed by them. They have the remedy for all their problems, and they have access to all their needs, but they simply will not “take it in their own hand” be blessed. That presentation of good remedies is great. But so many people never actually take it up into their own life as being personal to them. On this issue, we see testimonials being used in Scripture to convince people of the blessedness of obeying God, following God, being God, trusting God, and never trust anything but God.
Jos 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
The good sermon needs emotional exhortation in a “call to action” by the hearer in order to become a biblical and excellent sermon. What is your “call to action”? If you present the 12 tribes of Israel, and give information about them, and then pray and go home. What was the call to action? What was the take away (the thing that they were to remember and take home with them and keep for the rest of their lives?)? Again, if people have to go and meditate an hour on your sermon afterwards to get that call to action, then the sermon is not effective. Just state it. “You should stop sinning (what the sermon dealt with) and start doing this differently“. This is the call to action, the take away.
The fifth element of biblical preaching is that its structure is visible and constantly present. While many sermons in Scripture do not have a structured outline, they do follow a central overriding thesis. This thesis is presented in logical parts. These parts need to go together to conclude the thesis true. In most sermons, this purpose is best served by presenting a sermon plan at the beginning, and then repeating it throughout the sermon. This is the outline. “Today we want to see why prayer is important, and we will see, x, y, and z prove to us from God’s word that prayer is important.” This frames the discourse in a clear movement from proposition to proof and ends in a conclusion (accept my thesis). When you restate the outline throughout the sermon, you are reminding the audience that (1) I have a fixed number things to deal with, and we are 2 of 4 through them. That provides the audience with a marking of time through the sermon and this causes them to sense or feel the sermon is not endless. We want timeless sermons, but giving a feel of unending or endless is not it.
Besides “marking time” til its over, the constant repeating of the outline points and the thesis is essential for the audience to judge whether you proved your thesis. They have to know what it is, and most probably their understanding of the thesis is going to be broadened and filled out, and maybe even totally re-understood through the course of the sermon. A sermon which never mentions its thesis will never be seriously considered for personal adaption into the audience’s life.
Let me use an example. Thesis: Hillary Clinton should be indicted because of her mishandling of emails. That is a thesis I want to prove to you. There is a hidden mental device called repetition which can be used. I will repeat the same premise or thesis over and over while presenting evidence. The Democrats like doing this and they presume their thesis, and then present non-proof, and even so, it works.
In the work of God, we insist on the thesis, and we show biblical proof and evidence to that end. If I give you 7 reasons why Hillary should be indicted, and in each case, first present the evidence, then I pull you back to the thesis by restating it, and cement that proof as “without a doubt” proving my thesis, and I do this for 7 different points, then my case becomes very solid, very convincing. The key here is to first present an overview (thesis and main points) and then work each point, and never give up a point just because we finished talking about it. I always want to return and reemphasize each point at the transition between points and at the end so that these evidences build on themselves making a convincing case that nobody can ignore.