Suggestions For Successful Preaching
Men in the Bible who preached the word of God taught us things we can use as we endeavor to preach the word of God.
First, they taught us to love the Lord. Tradition says that John is the only apostle who escaped a violent death. Now, we do not have inspired accounts of many of the apostles' deaths, but we have some that indicate that times were, indeed, perilous. In Acts 12:2, James was put to death by the sword; Peter was arrested, and the same fate was planned for him by Herod. Paul was put through many trials. He was stoned, beaten with rods, shipwrecked, snake bit, and faced many other trials, including at least four imprisonments. Tradition says that he was beheaded around AD 67. Yet, he never faltered. Even when Agabus prophesied about his impending imprisonment and all the disciples begged him not to go to Jerusalem because of the fate that awaited him, Paul said, “What are you doing weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:10-13) That is the attitude needed for successful preaching. Not only do I say it, but also I believe it. That belief is evidenced in my life.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 explains the concept of practicing what you preach. All who run a race do so to win a perishable crown. The crown after which we strive is imperishable. Therefore, we are to run in such a way as to win. We aim for success and work to make that goal a reality. We keep our lives in control so that, after we preach, we are not disqualified. In other words, we exemplify the lessons we preach so that, when people hear our mouths say something, it reinforces what our lives have been teaching. We will not be dismissed before we are finished preaching because people know that we believe what we are saying. If I tell my children not to smoke, and I smoke like a freight train, my example goes farther than the speech. If I tell others to love their brothers, and then I gossip and backbite, my example will go farther than my speech, and I will be pre-disqualified. My message will be useless, even if it is in line with the truth of God.
We must be people with sterling character, protecting the sterling message that God has entrusted to us. The example of the one speaking is louder than the microphone could ever amplify. Set the right one, before you step into the pulpit or into the living room of someone who needs the gospel.
Preaching can be as effective now as it was in the past. When preaching is not about me but Thee, it will reach others. When I preach, as Richard Baxter says, as “A dying man to dying men,” the message will mean something. Bring the urgency back into preaching. Remind people that we are on borrowed time and that the decisions we make do matter in the here and now. These decisions in the here and now make a difference on our eternity. Make sure people learn that.
Make the lesson apply to lives that people live. Do not be a preacher who is unseen six days a week and incomprehensible the seventh. Make sure the lesson has a use to people. Proper lessons should have strong exegetical value. They should be studied in their context, and the meaning should be understood in light of the period and the culture to which it is written. As Gordon Fee said, “You cannot know what a text means, until you know what it meant.” When that is done, make sense of it to the one who is trying to use it to make his way through the twenty-first century. Those souls who are struggling through the trenches of modern warfare need to know more than how it was handled 2,000 years ago, they need to know how that helps them today. Make that bridge for them so that they can see not only that the message applies, but also how it applies. Do not leave them wondering, “Then what?”
Application must be seen in the life of the speaker. When Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter heaven, but he that does the will of My Father in heaven,” He was pointing out that life service must accompany lip service. Saying “I love you” is not nearly as strong as showing love to someone. Preaching is God’s chosen means of spreading the gospel. Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in him whom they have not heard? How will they hear without a preacher?”
Preaching is the greatest job in the world. No other job can have an impact in 1,000,000 years. Nothing in the world can change the impact of preaching on eternity. If done with the whole self, head, heart, and life, nothing can stop good preaching. “Preach the word.” -1301 West Virginia Ave., Parkersburg, WV 26104. Steven@northendchurch.com
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