HUGH’S NEWS & VIEWS
Do our young preachers ever preach on such themes as the authority in religion, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the two covenants, the establishment of the church, the identity of the church, the scheme of redemption, repentance, baptism, worship, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, why we do not use instrumental music in worship, God’s standard of morality, or other fundamental themes? Do they ever simply take a biblical text and explicate it and make application of it? (Please see note at the end.)
From time to time, I hear able young preachers, as well as talented young men who are preparing themselves to become gospel preachers. They tell a lot of human interest stories and give an “inspiring” speech such as I might also hear at a Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, or Rotary luncheon meeting.
I do not mean to be critical of these dedicated young men, but it would do the heart of this old preacher good if at least every once in a while I would hear one of them preach on one of the fundamental themes mentioned above and include more than just one or two scriptures in their sermon. I know what the Bible teaches about every one of those subjects, but I sometimes wonder if the young preachers do! They seem to never preach on them. And I know for a fact that there are people in their audiences who do NOT know what the Bible teaches about those subjects.
It is being said by some of our modern preachers and by some of those who are training our preachers that the kind of preaching I have mentioned above doesn’t “sell” today. Well, since when did faithful gospel preachers start putting a wet finger in the air to see which way the wind was blowing before deciding what they would preach? “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
I do not deny that we need sermons on love, mercy, performing random acts of kindness, being good neighbors, treating people right, feeding the hungry, etc., etc. No one denies the need for preaching that encourages these things. But some of the preaching being done today has lost its “edge,” and has become rather bland. As a consequence, many congregations of God’s people are starving for fundamental, doctrinal, distinct, and specific preaching.
We have young people growing up in our congregations who have never heard a sermon on the distinctive nature of the church or why baptism is essential to salvation or why we do not use instrumental music in worship. Then we wonder why when some of them leave home they leave the church for a denomination or some kind of generic “community” church, why they say baptism “may” be essential for salvation for those who “feel” it is essential but not essential for those who “understand it another way,” why they have no objection to the use of instrumental music in worship, and why when they become old enough to be appointed as elders in the church they have little biblical understanding of what the real work of an elder/bishop/pastor is!
Soon after I began my work as a full-time minister, I discovered that there needed to be, for lack of a better word, a “framework” for preaching. I developed such a “framework,” and while it may not work for other preachers, it has worked for me, and I continue to use it even now in my retirement years in my part-time preaching and in my gospel meetings. For what it may be worth to both younger and older preachers who are readers of this column, the “framework” of my preaching consists of the following areas:
1) God; 2) Christ (His life and teaching; 3) The Holy Spirit; 4) The Bible/ Religious Authority; 5) Sin; 6) Salvation; 7) The Church; 8) Church & Restoration Movement History; 9) Congregational Development; 10) Worship (prayer, Lord’s Supper, scriptural music, etc); 11) Evangelism; 12) Christian Living; 13) The Christian Home; 14) Youth; 15) Bible Characters; 16) Denominationalism/Erroneous Doctrines; 17) Last Things (second coming of Christ, resurrection of the dead, judgment, heaven, hell); 18) Special Topics (contemporary challenges, etc.); 19) Books of the Bible (sermon series on the text of various books of the Bible, especially New Testament books); 20) Funerals & Wedding Ceremonies (not that the two should necessarily be associated, but just a convenient way to file them in my notebooks J).
Sermons that stretch across the above categories (“framework” of preaching) are topical, textual, and expository in nature. I am constantly revising old sermons and developing new ones. I have my “sugar sticks” (favorite sermons that I especially enjoy preaching). My purpose always is to “declare . . . the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:25), to “preach the word” (II Timothy 4:2), to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks [me] a reason for the hope that is in [me]” (I Peter 3:15), and to “speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11). I believe this ought to be the aim, purpose, and goal of every man who professes to be a gospel preacher or who aspires to become a gospel preacher.
Note: I do not think that the themes mentioned in the first paragraph of this edition of “News & Views” are the only themes preachers should address, but I do believe that the preacher who fails to regularly preach on these fundamental subjects is doing his hearers a great injustice and is guilty of failure to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
January 21, 2014