When I told my friend that I was going to take a D.Min. in preaching, he responded via chat with a symbol I've never forgotten. "Isn't preaching sort of ?" He believed, as many do, that preaching has seen better days, and is like flowers in a vase that should have been thrown out last week.
I get why. There really isn't as much good preaching out there as one would like. A lot of it is therapeutic and moralistic, like a Christian version of Anthony Robbins. It's even easy to doubt the usefulness of good preaching, preaching that is rooted in Scripture and is gospel-centered. There's not much of that preaching out there, and can we really expect this type of preaching to make a difference? I hear people talk about preachers in less than flattering terms, and they're not atheists. They are good churchgoing people.
I thought of this as I studied Ephesians last week as I prepared to (gulp) preach: "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers..." (Ephesians 4:11). Paul has been talking in Ephesians 4 about Jesus as a victorious king who has taken the place of victory, and has given gifts to his people from the plunder. What does the risen Christ give the church after plundering Satan? Christian leaders. Not just Christian leaders, but leaders who have one thing in common: they are teachers. They all have some role in unpacking what God has done through Christ, of teaching and communicating the good news.
If we are honest, I think a lot of us would say we had hoped for something else from the plunder. If Christ is going to go to all the trouble of defeating Satan, and if he wants to give gifts from that plunder to the church, couldn't he have chosen something else?
But that's what Jesus has chosen to give. Leaders who teach God's Words are gifts from Jesus to his people, won at great cost at the cross.
If that doesn't elevate the importance of teaching and preaching in the church, I don't know what does. And that doesn't make me proud either. I read that and realize my inadequacy to be a teacher of God's Word. Who is worthy to take this on?
Ed Stetzer wrote today that he is hearing "more and more about the importance of the local church (thank God)." I hope we'll soon hear more and more about the importance of solid teaching and preaching too. But even if we don't, it's still important to value preaching, and if you're a preacher/teacher, to preach even when it's out of season.
I have this quote from John Stott hanging above my desk:
I pray earnestly that God will raise up today a new generation of Christian apologists or Christian communicators, who will combine an absolute loyalty to the biblical gospel and an unwavering confidence in the power of the Spirit with a deep and sensitive understanding of the contemporary alternatives to the gospel; who will relate the one to the other with freshness, authority, and relevance; and who will use their minds to reach other minds for Christ.
Not a bad prayer to pray, even if preaching is still out of season.