The young preacher has been taught to lay out all his strength on the form, taste, and beauty of his sermon as a mechanical and intellectual product. We have thereby cultivated a vicious taste among the people and raised the clamor for talent instead of grace, eloquence instead of piety, rhetoric instead of revelation, reputation and brilliancy instead of holiness.
The first mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching. It is not only the first mark; it is far and away the most important of them all, because if you get this one right, all of the others should follow… If you get the priority of the Word established, then you have in place the single most important aspect of the church’s life, and growing health is virtually assured, because God has decided to act by His Spirit through His Word… The congregation’s commitment to the centrality of the Word coming from the front, from the preacher, the one specially gifted by God and called to that ministry, is the most important thing you can look for in a church.
Prophets…declare what God will do and what God requires. They speak the truth that people often do not want to hear. This rubs against the grain of a culture that treats religion as a consumer item. Those who adjust the Word of God to meet market trends, assuming the consumer is always right, are simply peddlers (2 Cor. 2:17). Those who come to religion assuming that the chief goal of God is to glorify humankind and asking, “What will it all get me?” receive only spiritual chaff.
The evangelical always gives primacy to preaching. When people cease to be interested in preaching, they cease to be evangelical. If you put discussions before preaching you are beginning to deny your evangelicalism. The church starts with preaching. Revivals, reformations, have always been great restorations of preaching. To the evangelical, nothing compares with preaching. Even reading is very secondary to preaching – “truth medicated through personality,” the impact of a man filled with the Spirit proclaiming the message of God!
Committees are necessary. Even more important is vision and the ability to move the congregation toward the goals of the church. But when push comes to shove, it’s the ministry of the Word that gives us our greatest impact. A church can usually put up with weak administration if it has effective preaching. But there’s nothing quite as pathetic as people coming to church and returning home without any spiritual food.
A Good Shepherd is not known by how gently he pets the sheep. A Good Shepherd is known by how well he protects them and feeds them.
How you preach is what you think about the Scripture (H.B. Charles).
There is no office so honorable as that of the preacher. There is no work so important to the souls of men. It is an office which the Son of God was not ashamed to take up. It is an office to which He appointed His twelve apostles. It is an office to which Paul in his old age specially directs Timothy’s attention. He charges him with almost his last breath to "preach the word." It is the means which God has always been pleased to use above any other, for the conversion and edification of souls. The brightest days of the Church have been those when preaching has been honored. The darkest days of the Church have been those when it has been lightly esteemed. Let us honor the sacraments and public prayers of the Church, and reverently use them. But let us beware that we do not place them above preaching.
Make him a minister of the Word! Fling him into his office, tear the office sign from the door and nail on the sign: Study. Take him off the mailing list, lock him up with his books and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts, broken hearts, the flippant lives of a superficial flock, and the Holy God. Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who knows about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Let him come out only when he is bruised and beaten into being a blessing. Set a time clock on him that will imprison him with thought and writing about God for 40 hours a week. Shut his garrulous mouth forever spouting "remarks" and stop his tongue always tripping lightly over everything nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dare break silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley, fire him from the PTA and cancel his country club membership; burn his eyes with weary study, wreck his emotional poise with worry for God, and make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk before God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone, burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets, refuse his glad hand, and put water in the gas tank of his community buggy. Give him a Bible and tie him in his pulpit and make him preach the Word of the living God. Test him, quiz him and examine him; humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine, and shame him for his glib comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist, scorn his insipid morality, refuse his supine intelligence, and compel him to be a minister of the Word. If he dotes on being pleasing, demand that he please God and not man. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." When at long last, he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a Word from God; if he does not, then dismiss him and tell him you can read the morning paper, digest the television commentaries, think through the day’s superficial problems, manage the community’s myriad drives, and bless assorted baked potatoes and green beans ad infinitum better than he can. Command him not to come back until he has read and re-read, written and re-written, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, "Thus saith the Lord." And when he is burned out by the flaming Word that coursed through him, when he is consumed at last by the fiery Grace blazing through him, and when he who was privileged to translate the truth of God to man is finally translated from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently, blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly, place a two-edged sword on his coffin and raise a tune triumphant, for he was a brave soldier of the Word and e’er he died he had become a spokesman for his God.
May I beg you carefully to judge every preacher, not by his gifts, not by his elocutionary powers, not by his status in society, not by the respectability of his congregation, not by the prettiness of his church, but by this – does he preach the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation? If he does, your sitting under his ministry may prove to you the means of begetting faith in you. But if he does not, you cannot expect God’s blessing.