Why Preaching is Primary
If you've attended a Living Stones gathering, you've noticed that the central piece of the service is the sermon. You've also noticed that we preach straight from the Bible.
The goal of the preacher is to make the word of God “fully known.” In Colossians 1:24-25, the Apostle Paul, speaking of the church and gospel ministry, writes, “…I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you to make the word of God fully known.”
The goal of the preaching ministry is this - re-talking God’s talk to God’s people.
Preachers are announcers of the truth of God, and the preaching ministry is somewhat prophetic insofar as it reflects the text or texts being preached. The preacher’s job is to bring Jesus and his bride together through the word. Like the great preacher John the Baptist, we take the words of God and point the people of God to the Savior so as to present everyone mature in Christ (Col. 1:28-29).
I cannot imagine a more important calling.
Preaching is Stewardship of God's Word
All Christians are stewards of the word of God in the sense that the Scriptures are given to the church to reveal God’s story and reveal God’s communication to humans. But the preacher is given stewardship over the public proclamation of the gospel of God. The preacher is entrusted with the word and stands between heaven and earth as a mouthpiece.
Paul said about the apostolic preaching responsibility, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). Paul says that this stewardship was given to him to make the mind of God known to his hearers. Those called to this proclamation ministry come with the authority of God.
One of the greatest preachers of all time, George Whitefield, demanded respect for this stewardship from the congregations he preached to. British preacher John Stott tells the story that once, while preaching, Whitefield noticed that an old man in the audience was sleeping:
Whitefield began his sermon quietly, without disturbing the gentleman’s slumbers. But then in measured, deliberate words he said: ‘If I had come to speak to you in my own name, you might rest your elbows upon your knees and your heads on your hands, and go to sleep!...But I have come to you in the name of the Lord God of hosts, and (he clapped his hands and stamped his foot) I must and I will be heard.’ The old man woke up startled.
Today we need preachers like Whitfield who will unashamedly proclaim the word of God. In our community, we need men who come to the pulpit with this sort of burden for proclaiming God’s truth. It is absolutely essential that those who come to the pulpit are called to preach, so that the word of God receives its due.
In Acts 6, Peter tells the church that the reason deacons are needed is so the Apostles (the preachers in this case) can devote themselves to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). The responsibility given to the preachers necessitated their devotion to this task alone. Preachers are entrusted with studying, praying, and meditating so they can effectively bring God’s message, not their own.
Preaching is Responsibility for God's Community
But this is a weighty responsibility, and this stewardship is not for the benefit of the preacher alone - it is for God’s community. People’s destiny providentially weighs upon the preacher. Elect humans hear the voice of God through the proclaimed gospel, both for salvation and sanctification, when men preach. God could send angels or even speak from the heavens himself, but instead He was pleased for the sake of His glory to call weak men to preach so that His power might be made known (1 Cor. 1:18-23).
In Acts 20:26-27, Paul tells the Ephesian elders that he is "innocent of the blood" of the Ephesians because he “did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” In other words, he proclaimed to them the whole revelation he was given by God without leaving anything out. That was his sole responsibility, and he carried it out.
On the flipside, if we do not preach the whole counsel of God we bear some responsibility in the death of the wicked - we have misused our stewardship. The responsibility of preaching is huge because of how powerfully God works through it.
Preaching is the Central Ministry of the Church
Preaching is the ordained method to communicate God’s message, and it has always been. The prophets preached, the apostles preached, the church fathers preached, the reformers preached, and in our modern context preaching is still primary. We are entrusted with the message of the gospel found in the Scriptures, a gospel that is to be proclaimed to both saints and sinners. The word of God allows the sinner for the first time to respond to the grace of God and allows the saint to continue responding to the grace of God. As John Stott says, “The word of the preacher is an attack on the prison in which man is held.” The sinner is freed from the bondage of sin and the saint is freed from the prison of his stumbling. Both are allowed to walk in the victory of God through Christ by the preached word.
Some would have us believe that it is better to have a discussion or a nice little “talk,” but God has ordained preaching. In our community, we have a place for discussions in our small gatherings and there is even a time and place for a devotional talk, but in the end preaching has always been central to the life of the church and it will continue to be in the Living Stones community.
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”(2 Cor. 4:5).