Christian Pilgrim


The Reformation of Preaching

Only Christ can build His church, "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it " (Matthew 16:18). All those who are true members of this church (all the ones whose hearts the Lord has renewed and who have been adopted as His children into His family), will reach heavenly glory, are chosen by Christ and cannot be lost.

However, whilst we are on this earth, the Lord has ordained that this true church should be invisible to us, i.e. undetectable to our senses. We cannot see other people’s hearts. Only God knows who are truly His. Visible churches (ones we can see with our eyes) are groups of people made up of all those who profess to be Christian. This is not the same as the true (invisible) church, because many people who are truly God’s children will be outside of a visible church, and on the other hand, many people who are not God’s children will be within a visible church. No visible manifestation of the church is perfect, they are all of varying degrees of purity.

The Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century was a good thing, because the old Roman Catholic church had gone astray. It thought that it was perfect, not believing that the true church was invisible, but believing that the visible church, i.e.itself, was the one true church of God, teaching that there was no salvation outside of itself, putting itself, the visible church, in place of God. It really thought that it had the power itself to open and close the gates of heaven and hell to people. And they bled people dry of all their money and frightened them to death with this evil, false doctrine. Because of this terribly wrong view that the church had, a reformation was desperately needed in order to (a.) get rid of this wicked idea, and (b.) put the Word of God back in the primary, authoritative place that it ought to have in the church, and which the church leaders of the day (particularly the pope) had usurped.

The Roman Catholic church believed that the ritual has the prime place in worship. The Reformers, on the other hand, believed in what they called “the primacy of preaching” in worship. This was good, at the time, because true religion is not blind superstitious ritual, but rather it is the people learning and applying the Word of God to their souls for themselves, which is what the preaching was meant to do. However, we have a different problem today, in that we have exalted preaching so much that it has now (a.) overshadowed the Word of God and (b.) exalted men too highly.

Today, preaching in every church involves someone standing in a pulpit giving an oration, usually with no formal recourse in the church for anyone to ever respond to the discourse, or ask questions. It is a one-way lecture that the congregation is supposed to blindly follow passively and agree with whatever is said. The preacher is taught to speak dogmatically, as though he was always right, even though no man can ever always be right. Consequently, the preacher is elevated to a level where nobody dare challenge him, or question him publicly on spiritual matters. The “primacy of preaching” has been replaced by the “primacy of the preacher.”

God condemns oratory, because it exalts men too highly:

Acts 12:21-23 - "And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost."

So, far from us having true preaching in the church today, we rather have a false façade of preaching, which is not the Biblical pattern at all. Let us look at some of the problems involved, and then go on to see what true, Biblical "preaching" really is.

Some Basic Problems with Modern-day Preaching

Authoritarian manner

The idea that one man must preach dogmatically and authoritatively, when he is in the pulpit, results in many problems:

– Members of the congregation become too afraid to talk about the sermon afterwards or ever disagree with the preacher, because they know that if they did they would be thought to be troublemakers and sidelined in the church.

– People will think that the authority of the message comes from the preacher, whereas it actually comes from the Word of God alone. The preacher is merely a conduit for the Word. Where what the preacher says agrees with the Word of God, it is authoritative, and will be effectual. But where he strays from the Word, we can safely ignore him:

Isaiah 55:11 - "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

– This sort of preaching tends to idol worship. People will follow the most eloquent preachers. Preaching is not eloquence, persuasive, smooth talking, like selling a soap powder. Neither is it using emotional blackmail in trying to get the people to believe the preacher.

Preachers today should not be as forthright as the prophets and apostles, who could say, “Thus saith the Lord” and mean it. We no longer have direct revelation from God like the prophets and apostles had. A preacher (who is a fallible man, and can and will make mistakes) who behaves in a similar manner to the prophets and apostles in his preaching, is too full of himself, to say the least.

I have heard a lot of sermons where the preacher speaks in a very authoritarian manner, and yet he is absolutely wrong!! It does not matter how hard he bangs on his pulpit or assertively shouts and stares, trying to make the congregation feel guilty for disagreeing with him; if he is wrong, he is wrong! But our modern idea is that a preacher must preach in an authoritative, forthright manner as though he were ex cathedra (in the pulpit) infallible. But anyone who hears a preacher preaching in this manner, will think to themselves, “The Protestants have just exchanged and infallible pope for an infallible preacher!” This is very difficult to tolerate for ordinary Christians, who are all at different stages in their growing in grace and knowledge:

2 Peter 3:18 - "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."

We must therefore conclude that an authoritative attitude in preaching does not convert or actually help people grow in the faith at all. In fact it turns a lot of people away from Christianity altogether. They would come away from a sermon thinking to themselves "Who does that man think he is?! He thinks he knows it all!" and consequently would not be encouraged to read the Bible for themselves, but would just leave that particular church and never come back (although if the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts, they will become true believers, despite the preacher).

In reality, all men make mistakes in their logic and understanding, including preachers. They do this because they are fallible men, and because we should all be changing our views as we receive more and more light from the Scriptures. Yet preachers are expected to preach dogmatically, authoritatively and forthrightly all the time, as though everything they say is right, when in actual fact this is not necessarily so. They might, for example, change their views at a later date (as they receive more light on the subject) and realise they made a mistake before. Therefore, we must conclude that all preachers who insist on preaching in a forthright, dogmatic manner will inevitably be propagating error at least at some time in their lives. They may not mean to, but they do, and this misleads many people.

No matter how good the preaching is, and how right the doctrines presented are, preaching is only ever merely a suggestion, and should never be presented in an authoritarian manner. If the preacher has done his studying well, he will try to present truth in the best way he can, and then pray that the Holy Spirit might (a.) use the truth presented to convince people in their hearts, and (b.) forgive any errors that have been preached. In over thirty years as a Christian, I have only ever heard one man who actually prayed at the end of his sermon, "If I have said anything wrong, please forgive me, Lord." That is how much authoritarian preaching has engrained itself in our churches today.

The Bible is where we get all our authority from, so preaching is only authoritative in as much as it sticks to the Bible. It is the Bible that is authoritative, never the preacher. [N.B. This does not mean we can have women preachers, because of 1 Timothy 2:12: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” The Bible has spoken elsewhere on this issue.]

Some Christians I know, once met some people from another church through their contact with their children at the local school. When they found out that these people were Christians, they befriended them and gave them a sermon tape of their church’s minister, which they took home with them. Next time they met these people, they asked what they thought of the tape. The reply was an embarrassed silence. That answer indicated that there was something wrong and they were too embarrassed to say. Even now, nobody knows the real reason for them not liking the tape, but several suggestions come to my mind:

(a.) Maybe they were convicted of their sins by the message, but I do not think so. That would be the standard answer of the church, because they think it ought to be like that. This is just an excuse to use, because if it were true, these people would have shown a lot more serious concern in their reaction, rather than merely embarrassment.

(b.) Maybe they did not agree with what was said. But this is unlikely too, because most people today do not know enough theology to know whether they agree or disagree with anything.

(c.) I make the suggestion that the real reason for their disapproval was that they did not like the preacher’s dogmatic attitude, and that the tone of the preacher’s voice suggested that he would not allow the listener to disagree with him. This is most likely to be the true reason and would explain embarrassment, because they simply did not want to upset the people that gave them the tape unduly. But most people in the church will not agree with me on this, because it is not the answer they want to hear.

Nobody is right all the time, especially a smooth talker who can present something as though it was far better than it actually is. It is far better to have a genuine, honest and open speaker, than a smooth presenter.

To take advice, yes, but to hang on to the every word of a preacher…. They love to have it so! (Jeremiah 5:31). We should teach people to look after themselves not just in physical things but in spiritual things as well. We are all responsible to God as individuals directly ourselves, not to the preacher.

It is interesting to note in passing that Christ sat down when He explained Scripture, as though not wishing to lord it over the people:

Matthew 5:1,2 - "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying..."

Luke 4:16,20,21 - "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read..... And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them..." [Note: Standing for the reading, sitting for the explanation].

Luke 2:46 - "And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions."

Matthew 26:55 - "I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me."

Preaching as magic

This modern view of preaching actually regards it as some kind of magic. People would not admit to this, but it is the case if they agree with any of the following:

(a.) That preaching is the only ordinary means of salvation. This is not so. The Word of God is the only ordinary means of salvation. Only when the preaching coincides with the truth of the Word of God does God use it as a means to effectually call sinners to repentance and faith.

(b.) That in times of spiritual dearth, we believe we should continue preaching as normal, and wait for a time when the Holy Spirit moves the preacher to wax so eloquent that many people are converted. C.f. the 1859 “revival” in Wales, when an ordinary, mediocre preacher was suddenly taken up with the “hwyl.” Many were supposedly converted in the next few months, then the preaching lost its “unction” just as suddenly, and the preacher “became plain old Dafydd Morgan again.”

(c.) That there is a difference between preaching and exhorting. Only fully ordained ministers “preach.” Anyone else (who prepares the sermon in exactly the same way) merely “exhorts.” The difference between a minister and the rest of the congregation is that the minister has “ministerial grace,” or “unction,” i.e. a magic power to convert sinners through “preaching,” whereas nobody else has this magic power. This is a terrible thought, and no different from believing the superstition that a priest can magically turn the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

(d.) That recorded sermons are not the same as live preaching. This view sees something magic in live preaching. Live preaching is considered to be ordinarily the only ordained means of salvation, because recordings are not mentioned in the Bible. This is nonsense. There is indeed a major problem with listening to a recorded sermon, and that is that we have more things to distract us whilst hearing one than we would do if we were listening to live preaching in a church. Apart from this however, the message remains exactly the same, whether we hear it live, hear it on tape, download it from the internet, or indeed read it in a book. If the message is exactly the same, so God can use it to the same effect in the hearer or reader.

(e.) Some people “feel a call” to the ministry. These people just fancy themselves. Too much self-love is the problem here.

Who should preach?

There are two extremes to avoid here:

(a.) Only those licensed by the Presbytery should be allowed to preach.

(b.) Anyone who fancies their hand at preaching can do so.

Both of these extremes are wrong.

(a.) Only licensed ministers are allowed to preach

It is understandable for churches to want to fence their pulpits to stop anyone stepping in and preaching heresy. But how strictly should it be fenced? Should everything be preached dogmatically as though the preacher was right in everything (even though he never can be}? No, because it immediately appears false to everyone.

In any case, we do not need to have preachers or ministers “licensed by Presbytery” to “keep the testimony.” Christ said, “I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:18). Testimony to the truth is kept by the Holy Ghost.

(a.) Matthew 23:8-10 - “Call no man father / master / Rabbi

(b.) 1 John 2:27 - “Ye need not that any man teach you

(c.) Luke 12:11,12 - "And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say." Luke 21:12-15 - “But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist."

(d.) Acts 9:19-30; Galatians 1:16-2:1 - Paul, upon conversion, did not approach the church for support because he felt he had a “call to the ministry.” Rather, “straightway” he started preaching that Christ was the Son of God (Acts 9:20), confounding the Jews, “proving that this is very Christ” (v.22). He was so convincing that the Jews “took counsel to kill him” (v.23), so “the disciples took him by night and let him down by the wall in a basket” (v.25). At this point, I suggest that he “conferred not with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16), but went into the desert of Arabia for three years. Presumably he had his Bible with him in the desert, and there spent the time re-educating himself from the Jewish interpretation he had learned from Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). After this, he went to Jerusalem and “assayed to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26), but Barnabas “took him and brought him to the apostles” (v.27). We see from Galatians 1:18,19 that he was there fifteen days and only actually met Peter and James. During this time “he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Grecians; but they went about to slay him” (Acts 9:29). So the brethren sent him off to Tarsus (v.30). He then avoided the churches in Judea for fourteen years, and dwelt in Syria and Cilicia (Galatians 1:21). Here, in Antioch of Syria, he was “separated” by the Holy Ghost “for the work” whereunto He had called him (Acts 13:2). This is NOT Paul’s “call to the ministry,” as he had been ministering for a long time before this. He remained away from the churches in Judea until circumstances in the Lord’s providence took him to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders there about a particular problem regarding circumcision (Acts 15). Then the apostles and elders immediately accepted him as a true believer, without any examination. He was not compelled to get the Synod to licence him first before beginning to preach. He was not “sent” to preach by any church. Cf. Romans 10:15 “How shall they preach except they be sent” is often interpreted as meaning sent by the church, but it does not say that. It means sent by God.

A preacher who is licensed is NOT the only one who is a true ambassador of Christ, the only official source of truth, as people who believe this would teach. Such teaching elevates the preacher or minister far, far too highly. All true believers are ambassadors for Christ whenever what they say coincides with the truth of Scripture. Scripture is our ultimate authority, we should not have to rely on an ambassador telling us what to believe before we can know and embrace truth. We can embrace truth wherever we find it. Of course, preachers and ministers are not to be lightly disagreed with, because they should know the Bible better than most of the rest of us, as they are supposedly set apart for the teaching of the Word of God, and have more time to study it than the rest of us. But other than that, they are no different from any other believer. They are one of us.

Another problem I have found with a lot of preachers or ministers is that they tend to be “people people” – i.e. worldly, wanting an enormous social life, and not necessarily as steeped in Scripture as they should be. Most ministers go into the job in the first place because they want a job dealing with people, not because they love the Word of God. Consequently, they only interpret Scripture in a man-exalting context, giving the people what their itching ears want to hear, to keep themselves in favour with them.

(b.) Anyone allowed to preach who feels like it

A person two years in the faith can edify. He does know something, but not much. He is quite right in sharing what he knows in informal fellowship after church, and should be encouraged to do so, like a small child should be encouraged when he says his first words. But for preaching in a worship service, he is not suitable. It seems popular these days to mistake a youthful zeal for a great gift in the church, and people very young in the faith are put into leadership positions in the church very, very quickly. This not only puffs them up with pride, but also will not satisfy the congregation because of the person’s relative ignorance in spiritual things. A bishop (elder) should be: “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).

(c.) Correct view

The only men who should be allowed to teach in worship services are the spiritually mature Christians in the congregation. Now, the problem is, how do you find out who these are? Some people mature in the faith quicker than others. Even so, a good start would at least be to use men ideally 20 years in the faith minimum, or if this is not possible, at least the longest serving Christian you can find. Even in these cases, we should always be very aware that he could make mistakes. He should be educated in the Scriptures, but someone of that maturity in the faith should already have this qualification by experience. He should not have to have some kind of training under the auspices of a church. It is not wrong to have this as such, but the problem with church training is that churches will always fill their students with the church’s propaganda (after all, the church is probably paying for the training!), which is always a mixture of truth and error. Of course all men are a mixture of truth and error too, but if we are trained by a church or external organisation, we are more likely to have engrained into us that what the church teaches is right, and our outlook for the rest of our lives becomes permanently stained by the errors imbibed from this (except, despite the training, the Holy Spirit corrects this, of course).

Examples of bad preaching

With regards the preaching itself, it ought to stick to Scripture. It is therefore bad preaching when the preacher:

– goes off the point.

– tries to twist Scripture to convince people that Scripture teaches particular tenets (usually those of the church), when it teaches no such thing.

– uses the opportunity he has of having an audience to try to impress people with his eloquence to attract followers.

– expects to be followed. “You shut up and listen to me.”

All these things (and many more) happen in churches, and to what degree they happen is proportional to how bad the preaching is.

In most modern preaching, people are manipulated. This is a very serious problem. To be effective, it must be performed without the congregation realising they are being manipulated, otherwise they would naturally rebel against it. All management training courses (and there are plenty of them around today) have this as their primary element. Good management is the art of manipulating people into doing what you want them to do, whether they want to do it or not and without them realising that they are being manipulated in any way.

We are being manipulated all the time. We may not admit to this, but the fact is that, for example, advertising works. People do buy products they see in advertisements, and they do pass by other products which may be better in an objective sense but which are not advertised as well. This is not right. The better product gets sidelined, whilst the weaker product that has had the swish advertising campaign to promote it gets the sales. We must reach into the heart of how the human mind works if we are to understand the many ways in which we are all manipulated.

But we must ask ourselves, is this right? We must look at the morality of this process and we must not just blindly accept everything people tell us to do. Of course we need good leaders, but rather we must be aware of the times when people are manipulating us, so that we can think for ourselves and then decide what is right or not.

Let us examine a few techniques that are used, and maybe you can discover them in the preaching you attend, so that you can avoid being taken in by them:

The gap theory

In this means of manipulation, there is a steady, logical, correct progression of argument in the discourse that nobody can fault and which is absolutely sound. This carries the audience along with the speaker for a while. Then, when the speaker is sure that the audience are with him and hanging on his every word, he introduces a “gap” in the logic and quickly, with sleight of hand, jumps across it and continues his logical progression on the other side of it, hoping that nobody has noticed. After the speech, everyone will agree what a marvellous sermon it was, but upon closer examination of the text or of a recording of the address (here is an advantage in recording the sermon), the logic “gap” can be clearly seen. Not only that, but it can also be clearly seen that the “gap” has been deliberately down-played and skimmed over quickly by the speaker because he knows himself that his argument is weak at that point.

The straw man theory

In this type of manipulation, the speaker sets up a caricature of the thing he is trying to shoot down, and then he shoots it down. The caricature is given in such a way that it is simple to shoot it down using correct logic, and then the speaker suddenly generalises to bring his point home. I heard an example of this once when a minister was wanting to refute pre-millennialism. He set up a caricature by telling us all about Dispensationalist pre-millennialism common in Brethren circles, then he quite easily shot it down in his argument. So far, so good. But then he immediately jumped to his conclusion that “therefore pre-millennialism is wrong.” That was a generalisation, and one lady in the meeting immediately cornered him at that point by telling him that she agreed the Brethren view was wrong and was easy to refute, but there are other more sober pre-millennial views that are nothing like that, and he had said nothing about them. The minister was duly put in his place! (Please note that I am not here arguing for or against any form of pre-millennialism, I am merely using this as an example of the use of the straw man theory).

The humble worm

When a minister in conversation is cornered and can find no logical way out of the position that he has been put in, he will suddenly change tack. He will suddenly tell us how “humble” he is and how great God is and that we should not go into things too high for us. This is deliberately done to make the opponent feel small and guilty for trying to disagree with him, whereas in fact the opposite is the case – the opponent has actually won the debate, but he is never allowed the satisfaction of being told he is right.

Blind people with Bible references

This technique is most commonly used in written articles. The writer or speaker gives copious Bible references, but never looks them up or reads them out. This gives a veneer of scriptural authority, but if one actually takes the time to look up all the references mentioned, one sees the problem. A lot of verses are either completely mistaken references, or at least taken out of context and/or do not say what the preacher or writer is trying to tell people at all. Of course, he relies on the fact that people will not bother to actually look the references up, because there are so many of them; which makes him appear so spiritual and learned. It is always good to look up every reference, no matter how tedious this is, in order to ascertain if someone is really correct or not. The Bereans would not even believe the words of an apostle, without looking up in the Scriptures whether he was right or not:

Acts 17:11 - "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."

Give people a wrong impression, without actually saying anything wrong

Two examples I have come across:

(a.) A minister I know of tried to corner a friend of mine, and using Hebrews 2:9, started to promote a wrong teaching on the subject of the atonement. In the course of conversation he said, “I’ve read Arthur Pink and John Owen on this text,” and then carried on to say what he thought about it. At no time did he ever actually say what these men wrote about it, which was actually exactly the opposite of the opinion he was trying to get across! He said that he had read these authors, solely to give the listener the impression that these well known writers agreed with him, without actually telling an outright lie by saying that they did.

(b.) Another minister I know of, knows full well that it is wrong to preach from the pulpit “God wants to save all men.” So he would never actually say those words. But every time one comes away from his preaching, one is always given the impression that God does indeed want to save all men, even though he never ever actually says so.

These people can get away with what they are saying because they could honestly stand in a court of law, if they had to, and say, under oath, that they spoke the truth. But the impression they give is altogether different.

Exaggerated impression

Here the truth is exaggerated to try to get the listener to believe the church is growing, or being more successful, than it actually is. They could do this by downright lying, but the usual technique is, as above, to make people think these things are so, without actually saying so in as many words.

Sound bites

An assertive use of a dominating phrase, particularly if it is repeated several times, can sound so profound on hearing it, especially if it is spoken by a dominating, assertive personality. However, on actually going away and thinking about it, the phrase used is actually meaningless!

Emotive language

The use of emotive language is brought in by manipulators when their logic is defective, in order to try and bring their point home forcibly. If you stir the hearts of the audience emotionally, so these manipulators think, they will believe anything you have to say. If however the audience should go away and actually think of what was said in the cold light of day, they would find that what was actually said was not very much, or worse, was very wrong.

Make them feel guilty

I heard a speaker once say that people going down into hell will be turning around and crying to the Christians, “Why didn’t you tell us about Jesus?” So in this view, the unbelievers think it is the Christian’s fault they are in hell, not their own. And, what is worse, the Christians in heaven, will be feeling eternally guilty that they did not tell the ones now in hell about Jesus. This is terrible. Nobody is going to feel guilty in heaven, and those in hell will know full well that it is their own fault they are there. But you see the guilt tactics from the speaker. They make you feel guilty if you (a.) dare disagree with them; (b.) do not aggressively evangelise; (c.) “split” the church. But we must do what is just and true and right, whether we cross swords with the preacher or anyone else or not.

So we see some of the techniques that are used in the manipulation of people in churches. True religion is far from any of this kind of activity. Manipulation is very, very wrong, and anyone who calls himself a pastor of the flock is going wildly astray if he thinks he can use devious techniques such as those outlined here in order to manipulate his flock into doing what he wants them to do, and into believing what he wants them to believe. All men are answerable to God for their teaching of others. We must be aware of these conjuring tricks if we are not to be taken in by them and used by the many unscrupulous ministers there are in the church today.

So what is true preaching?

Acts 17:1-3 – here preaching is defined as reasoning “out of the Scriptures.” Reasoning with people is a two-way thing, with members of the congregation asking questions, and a two-way discussion going on. We have a message to get across, so we need to concentrate on getting it across and, more importantly, making sure people understand it.

True preaching is:

– presenting the truth.
– persuading others to embrace the truth.
– reasoning with people in favour of the truth.
– making sure they understand the truth.

All these include a two-way conversation between the preacher and the hearers. Not just a one-way lecture with nobody being allowed to say anything afterwards. Of course, it is off-putting to a lecturer for him to be interrupted all the time, so lecturing as such should not be condemned. Any speaker should be allowed to continue uninterrupted until he has finished what he has to say. But afterwards, there should be a public facility to ask questions to aid understanding and learning for both parties, the speaker and the congregation alike. Once people understand the truth they can then begin to practise it in their lives, which should be the ultimate aim of all true believers.

We have a message to proclaim and get across to others, but we are not to do it by waxing eloquent, in a dominating manner, with no facility of reply. Preaching is not a lecture or discourse which nobody is allowed to respond to, with no formal means of asking the preacher questions if you are unsure of anything. Under these circumstances, nobody is encouraged to learn or understand the Scriptures for themselves. This leads to an army of blind followers. Two-way communication is vital for understanding. If ever the two-way conversation gets out of hand for any reason, you can always simply take your leave and continue the conversation elsewhere (Acts 19).

Now let us look at a few New Testament Scriptures to see what preaching actually is:

Luke 2:46 – Joseph and His mother found the twelve-year-old Christ “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” Note He was not assertively telling them what to believe (even though He was actually right all the time, unlike any of us!), neither was He sitting passively listening to them. Preaching is two-way communication, so we can make sure the other party has understood what we have said correctly, and so that both parties can learn from each other.

Acts 17:2,3 – “reasoning with them out of the Scriptures”. “Opening and alleging…” Note that this is called preaching: “Christ, whom, I preach unto you.

Acts 17:17 – Paul “disputes” with “the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him,” and this is called “preaching” in v.18.

Acts 19:8 – disputing and persuading.

Acts 20:7 – Could a one-man “speech” last several hours, until midnight, without some time for response? Note v.11 he talked until break of day.

Acts 20:21, 25 – Testifying is equivalent to preaching.

Acts 28:23 – expounding, testifying, persuading from morning until evening. Reasoning (v.29), preaching and teaching (v.31).

2 Timothy 4:2 – preaching, reproving, rebuking, exhorting.

Titus 1:3 – “manifested His Word through preaching”.

2 Peter 2:5 – Note Noah was a “preacher of righteousness”, but no sign of a pulpit or waxing eloquent.

Whereas we have a Scriptural warrant for setting some people aside for the Word of God (Acts 6:2,4), and indeed that we should pay them for their services (1 Corinthians 9:9-11; 1 Timothy 5:17-18), Paul still “wrought,” earning a living by making tents (Acts 18:3). The problem we have with full-time preachers or ministers today, is that, in church courts, they tend not to vote according to truth and righteousness, but rather, because their livelihoods are at stake and they fear the stalwarts in the church, they vote in political blocks, not wishing to disturb the status quo in the church under any circumstances.The Scriptural way of paying preachers and ministers is to give them their expenses, but not to pay a full salary. Otherwise preaching and being a minister becomes nothing other than a secular job, and consequently people will tend to look after themselves, not the flock.

Primacy of the Word of God

You can never over-emphasise the Word of God. If the central part of the worship service is a long Scripture reading, that would not be a bad thing. The reader may be exalted for his eloquence, but this problem would be minimised, because the reading would be the Word of God, not the word of the reader. If the central part of a service is a sermon, this is all well and good if the speaker is doing what he should, and simply explaining the sense of the passage; but invariably he strays, and it becomes a means of his being thought too highly by his followers. Which is, sadly, what too many preachers today want for themselves, and they encourage this.

We are “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).

The right way of preaching is given by Nehemiah:

Nehemiah 8:8 - “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

Pure logical deduction is the only way we are to come to a knowledge of the truth, never by emotional appeals or emotive language. Most preachers use emotion in their sermons simply to try to get the people to believe the Bible forcibly – a kind of emotional manipulation or blackmail if you like. I remember one minister saying about a passage in the Bible once, “I believe that; do you believe that?” As though, “well actually we don’t believe it, but we’re trying to whip each other up into thinking we all do believe it really”! I cannot help thinking that people who like this sort of preaching do not really believe at all because they have to have this emotional crutch all the time to keep them going, whereas the true believer really does believe the truth, he simply would like it to be explained logically to him and opened up in the preaching. Proper preaching is not trying to persuade people that the Bible is true, it begins at assuming the Bible to be true and explains the meaning from there.