3 Minutes to Describe Preaching

Contributed by Barton Priebe, DMin, Incoming President of Northwest Baptist Seminary and author of The Problem with Christianity: Six Unsettling Questions You Have Asked. Barton pastored Dunbar Heights Baptist Church in Vancouver and Central Baptist Church in Victoria before coming to Northwest.

Several years ago, I stood on the platform of Central Baptist Church in Victoria.  I was “preaching for a call” to be their next lead pastor. Before preaching, the chair of the board interviewed me in front of the congregation.  After questions about my background, he said, “Please describe for us your convictions about preaching.”  We had agreed that my answer should be no longer than three minutes.  Such a short period of time proved to be a good exercise in drawing out what I believe to be the most important aspects of preaching.

Expository

Preaching should be expository.  At its most basic level, expository preaching means explaining a passage of scripture. In expository preaching, preachers don’t give their personal thoughts about life and then tack on some Bible verses in support of their ideas.  Rather, it is the scripture passage that dictates the preacher’s thoughts so that the main point of the sermon is clearly shown to be the main point of the passage.

Centred on Christ

Preaching should be centred on Christ.  In Luke 24, Jesus walked with two disciples toward Emmaus and “explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Lk 24:27).  It is not enough for a sermon to explain a biblical passage; it is the preacher’s job to show how the passage of scripture fits within the grand story of what God has done in and through Jesus Christ.  A sermon without Jesus is not a Christian sermon at all. Every sermon should either grow out of, or lead toward, the grace that God has given us in Jesus Christ.  This is so important because it is as we behold “the Lord’s glory” that we “are being transformed into his likeness” (2 Cor 3:18).

Applies the Truth

Preaching should apply truth by making it real to the listeners. No part of scripture is given to us simply for our information or interest.  A sermon is not just a lecture or the downloading of truth.  All scripture is given to equip us to live rightly (2 Tim 3:16).  Good preaching, therefore, shows how the Bible applies to our specific culture and time.  A sermon should seek to apply the Bible in such a way that the listeners encounter God in the truth that is being preached about. This begins with the preacher for “[n]o man preaches a sermon well to others who does not first preach it to his own heart.”[1]

Missional

Preaching should be missional.  Missionaries work hard to speak in terms that the culture can understand. Preachers also need to do this.  Speaking the truth in terms the culture can understand does not mean watering down the truth or compromising it.  It means anticipating objections and addressing them in a respectful way so that believers feel that they can bring their unbelieving friends to hear the preacher.

These four aspects of preaching should be saturated in prayer because it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that preaching produces true spiritual fruit.

[1] John Owen, “The Duty of a Pastor” in The Works of John Owen, ed. William Goold, (Illinois: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), volume 9.

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