Our time in Romans has led me recently to ask a question about my preaching. Though the question should be nuanced, it essentially is summed up in three words: “What’s the point?”
No, I’m not questioning the validity of preaching. I’m not questioning whether or not preaching is worthwhile. I’m simply trying to clarify for myself the goals of preaching. I guess that’s a good thing for the preacher to ask, right? As I’ve thought about it though, I’ve also realized it’s also probably a good thing for the listener to ask as well. With that in mind, may I share a few thoughts with you?
The first thing that I need to acknowledge with my preaching is that when I preach, there are two kinds of people who are listening: believers and non-believers. I don’t say this to label anyone. It is simply to acknowledge a truth which must impact preaching.
We all must tenderly, yet honestly, acknowledge that while there are those who are saved by grace through faith in Christ, and thus are children of God, there are also those who are not. Particularly in our southern Bible Belt Christianity, we tend to ease in to a practical universalism, where we assume everyone is a Christian. Many have bought in to this cultural version of Christianity, more akin to patriotism than following Christ. Sadly, many then find themselves trusting in a false sense of assurance in their salvation.
As I consider the point of preaching, I’ve had to admit that in not being clear on this distinction, I’ve not been helpful to the non-believer, whether they are earnestly seeking or not. I’ve not been helpful to the person who, while believing our cultural version of Christianity, has not yet come to see the depth of their sin, and their desperate need for Jesus Christ. I’ve also come to the realization that when this distinction is not made clear in preaching, the true believer can be left actually struggling with assurance, rather than resting in the security of their salvation in Christ and adoption into the family of God.
With those distinctions in mind, the goal of my preaching should be to preach the Word of God in such a way that the believer is edified and sanctified…taught and encouraged in their struggle over remaining sin so that they continue to grow in holiness. This preaching should be so Christ-centered and gospel-driven that the believer is left encouraged and secure in their salvation in Christ and adoption as a child of God. In other words, while we are called to grow in the family likeness (which can at times be hard), the Father has us in a bear hug and won’t let go.
The same Word applies to the non-believer, or the person who has not yet come to a realization of their sin and of their utter need for the Savior…Jesus Christ. Yet the goal is different. Preaching should lead to a spiritual conviction for the non-believer, leaving them with a sense of their need for Christ. But again, that conviction is spiritual. Through the preaching of the Word, the non-believer should not feel like they are being ostracized. Instead, they should know they’ve been told the truth by people who love them.
As I work through in my heart what may seem blatantly obvious to many of you, I want to leave you with this thought: Christ Church exists to glorify God, and to enjoy Him. We believe that God is glorified when we understand our need of Him, and worship Him accordingly. The qualification for membership is an acknowledgement of your need, and dependence upon Jesus to meet that need. This has a wonderfully equalizing effect, which means we want you to come and be with us. We’ll lovingly be honest with the truth of God’s Word. Together, we’ll wrestle with the implications of His Word. And, we’ll pray that the same God who authored the Word, will apply the Word to our hearts, wherever we may be.