I listened to a pastor at a fraternal recently make a loosely camouflaged attack on preaching. His complaint was that there was preaching at every meeting – two on Sunday, once midweek – and not enough ‘fellowship’. Why don’t churches have more fellowship? he asked.
It has been playing on my mind because I believe this is an indication of a much wider problem within the evangelical church in the UK. People in churches over the last few years have been asking for less preaching and the pastors seem more and more to have spinelessly acquiesced in this desire.
But the question remains – Why do people want this? Is it because they have discovered long lost parts of the Bible which show that the need for preaching is overstated? Hardly. The OT prophets preached, Jesus preached, the apostles preached. We could pile example on example. Preaching is mandated on pastors: Preach the word! says Paul. (2 Tim. 4:2)
So, why do people not want it? As a preacher, I have my heart in my mouth when I say this, but preachers generally do not model great preaching, for whatever reason.
I ran a preaching workshop with some lay preachers some time ago. I came up with the notion, which I kept to myself at the time, that a preacher could be measured by the length of time he could hold attention. I realised that some men are 5-minute preachers, some 1-hour preachers.
Sadly, the 5-minuters often seem to think they are 1-hourers and try and prove it time after time.
All this to lead to my sweeping, unscientific assertion: there is a lot – and I mean a lot – of bad preaching around. If my assertion is true, and it continues unchecked, with no oversight or follow up mentoring, then why should there be any surprise that people want less preaching! Lets have ‘fellowship’ instead!
Sorry, that’s dead wrong. And it is killing the church. If Scripture is authoritative revelation of God, by definition it has to be declared. The nature of the revelation demands it. In other words in must be preached. Preaching is the appropriate mode to bring that revelation to men and women. It brings faith. It makes dry bones live.
If there is not preaching then we undermine the place of Scripture and the gospel in the church. If there is not preaching we cut off our source of life and breath. The church dies. It is that simple.
So the answer is not less preaching, and more ‘fellowship’. The answer is better preaching, better training, better selection and discernment of gifts, better mentoring, all to bring forth better men fitted to the task. These men set loose on the world, who knows what would happen under God?
Let’s pray that God would bless the preaching of the word and that we would want more of it!