101 is the introductory class in the US educational system for a subject and that sounds much better than ‘for beginners’, I think. One of my friends – who was asked to preach – has recently asked me to give him some ‘tips of the trade’ regarding preaching. Here are some of my thoughts.
I will split the post in two parts: Preliminaries and Practicalities. In Preliminaries I will deal with foundational issues and Practicalities – well the hint is in the title.
1. Preaching is about Him – some people have a desire to preach and can’t wait to tell others about what they have burning inside their minds and hearts. Others are not as eager, and rather nervous about it. The first and most important lesson for the preacher is that you are a herald that proclaims God’s message. You are His spokesperson. That is both incredibly honouring and terrifyingly humbling. It assumes a relationship with Him. That means that you have to know Him (intimacy is essential) and understand and love His words. Common Mistake: some would rather communicate their ideas/programmes/visions.
‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
2. Preaching is by Him – this is a supernatural act, almost mystical. It isn’t just about a speech, a funny talk or a moving story. This is message that is from God and by God (through the Holy Spirit) for those who need to hear it. So in one sense – a human ability – isn’t necessarily a pre-requisite for preaching. Moses had a speech impediment and ended-up leading a nation – albeit Aaron coming in handy at times. Unless the Holy Spirit comes and enables the messenger and anoints the message – it can lead to just words, sentences and noise. Common Mistake: assuming that a teacher in the educational system must necessarily be good as a preacher in the Church; assuming that just because you are a funny, compelling communicator – the Word of God will be received and heard.
‘What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.’ 1 Corinthians 2:12-13
3. Preaching is for Him – your ultimate motivation is that God will be pleased and glorified and that His message will be delivered. Often preachers’ motivations can get mixed up. Preaching can easily become their source of self-confidence and affirmation or a means to impress and be loved by people. If one makes that mistake of forgetting the authentic motivation of serving (and that’s true for any area of ministry) for the audience of One – disappointments may ensue. Whether people respond, whether you feel great after delivering the message – those are simply unessential secondary blessings that God will give if and when you need them. If you chose to preach assuming that the only one you need to please is Him – you will build on healthy foundation that will save you much pain in this ministry. The common mistakes are obvious: preaching as a ‘people-pleaser’ or preaching as an ‘affirmation fix’.
‘Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.’ 2 Corinthians 2:17
More on Practicalities soon.