It has been well said that “Too many people worship their work, work at their play and play at their worship!” It not only is essential to restore the acts or elements of New Testament worship; it is crucial to restore the appropriate spirit and attitude (cf. Psa. 29:2; John 4:24; Matt. 15:6-9). Worship ought to be the total engagement of those involved in savoring and expressing the greatness and glory of God through the divinely authorized avenues found in the New Testament (cf. Mark 12:30; Psa. 34:3). In worship, we ascribe and attempt to describe the awe, adoration, and appreciation we have for our God according to what is authorized and prescribed in Scripture.
Preaching is seen throughout the Bible in worship contexts (Cf. Neh. 8:1-13; Acts 2:14-47; 20:7). Tragically, preaching has fallen upon “hard times” – it frequently is downplayed and considered irrelevant. Negative connotations and bad jokes abound concerning it. What can be done to restore and revive preaching as part of worship? The following four considerations are humbly offered to all those who preach and who listen to sermons.
- Preaching As Praise and Exultation. The word to remember here is theocentric (God-centered). The word of God is all about the salvation of man to the glory of God through Christ Jesus our Lord. Too much preaching is man-centered, with a verse or two of Scripture thrown in as garnish! Preachers – do you really preach a great and glorious God? Is that what those who regularly hear you would say? Preaching is done in the context of worship, is an avenue or element of worship and is intended to arouse and to motivate even more worship and praise. It is little wonder that worship is negatively affected when there is little of the wonder of God consistently reflected in the pulpits! Do people leave our assemblies exclaiming, “What a great God!”
- Preaching As Obligation and Command. The idea to be stressed here is authoritative. The Bible is to be preached (2 Tim. 4:2). The “whole counsel” of God is to be proclaimed (Acts 20:20, 27). Preachers really just serve up what God cooked up! The breath-taking story of Jesus is to be proclaimed in its amazing richness, variety, and power. There should be a greater compulsion on the part of those of us who preach to preach this way. And we should be determined to hear preaching this way too! (Luke 8:18; Heb. 2:1-3). It is fitting to ask, “Am I handling God’s word with great love, accuracy, and care by the way I preach and/or hear?” (Cf. 2 Tim. 2:15).
- Preaching As Proclamation and Communication. The concept to be emphasized here is engaging. A sense of detachment and a lack of engagement during preaching may be common but is inexcusable. The foundation of preaching is that God has spoken and that people need to hear His message of salvation in Christ. If not, judgment awaits (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Preachers are men with a message! God and His message should be seen in our words, character and emotions (1 Thess. 1:5). Preaching involves the effective communication and application of God’s words to people. We better make sure the message of God does not get lost through our poor translation of it! And hearers must listen to and evaluate sermons on the basis of its Ultimate Source, the need for and truthfulness of the message, and in view of eternity.
- Preaching As Transformation and Renewal. The big idea here is that preaching is purposeful. As the word of God is faithfully preached souls are saved, Christians are strengthened and God is praised and magnified. Christ is “formed” in us (Gal. 4:19), we are more “conformed” to His image (Rom. 8:29) and our minds are “transformed” and “renewed” (Rom. 12:2). How fitting! Through preaching, we become more like the One we lovingly adore. We come into the presence of God in worship and no one who thoughtfully enters will come out unchanged.
God-centered, authoritative, engaging and purposeful – that’s what preaching ought to be! How we should treasure the privilege of worship and the taking in of God’s word that goes with it, for on such occasions we anticipate the day we will forever be in the presence of our greatest treasure and joy – God Himself!