I’m reading a fascinating book, Preaching and Preachers, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I must confess, I’ve never read anything by him before and that’s a shame. The book is an excellent read. His premise is that preaching is the primary thing a minister does. He gives three reasons. One, because preaching is primary in the New Testament from Jesus through the Acts of the Apostles. Two, because every major revival in Christian history has been accompanied by great preachers. Three, because man is a rebel against God and needs the salvation that only preaching can bring.
In making his case, Lloyd-Jones bangs away at giving preaching a back seat to counseling, small homilies, lectures, conversation, and dialogue. He would have a hard time with the philosophy of the Emergent movement that puts relationships and conversation before the act of preaching. He goes on to show how the central pulpit has been moved to the side, allowing the elements of ritual to move to center stage. He calls this “an abomination.” I may not always agree with the author but I have to admit that I agree with his major premise. I’ve absolutely seen preaching denigrated over the span of my lifetime. Let me give you two reasons for saying this.
First, when I was in college and seminary, I was required to take a CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) course but I was never required to take a preaching course. But there is a second, more telling reason for agreeing with the author. Over the past 20 years of consulting, I’ve sat in hundreds of worship services listening to hundreds of sermons. I doubt if I’ve heard more than a dozen great preachers. So I think Lloyd-Jones is on to something. Of course we know the common anecdote that we all joke about: “it’s Saturday and I have to write my sermon.”
Maybe Lloyd-Jones is correct – maybe Christianity is in trouble because preaching is no longer central to the church. There is certainly ample evidence that preaching does not get the attention it should, either from the preacher or the person in the pew. Pastors are more likely to get fired over not visiting in the home or being in the office when needed than because they preach bad sermons.
Maybe one of the answers to the decline in Christianity is not the Emergent movement, or the organic movement, or any other movement. Maybe one of the primary solutions is to regain the primacy of preaching. Pastors, it’s time to make your weekly message the most important thing you do during the week instead of something you put off till you can find the time. It’s time to make it the first thing you do each week.
Question: What do you think would change if preaching was made the first priority in all churches? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.