The church needs bold, biblical, unashamed preaching. Though most every church will claim they “preach” and that they preach the Bible, that isn’t necessarily the case.
If there is one thing that a church must excel in prioritizing it is not a building campaign, story-telling, TED talks, pragmatic growth strategies, or more programs. It is preaching. Real, biblically-saturated, passionate, accurate, counter-cultural, Jesus-glorifying preaching. That is the ministry that every other ministry flows out of.
It is through preaching that the stewardship of the gospel — which has been entrusted to the church — is faithfully dispensed to a lost and hurting world (Romans 1:16-17).
It is through preaching that the saints are equipped for the work of service and thus build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). It is through preaching that faith comes to the one who hears the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). It is through preaching that wayward sinners repent (Luke 15:7). It through preaching — and, preaching the whole counsel of God — that preachers themselves fulfill their call to be faithful “stewards” (Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 4:1-5).
Catherine Marshall once wisely explained, “The faithfulness of a steward consists in his dispensing to the household exactly what has been committed to him; the faithfulness of a witness lies in his declaring with honesty and candour exactly what he knows, neither concealing part of the truth, nor distorting it, nor embellishing it.”
When such an explanation of stewardship is applied to preaching, how can we not conclude that any church and its preacher is required to preach exactly what the Bible declares if it is to be defined as “faithful?”
I was recently reflecting on the vitality of faithful preaching in the church today and at least 4 “needs” came to mind.
- The church needs preaching that fears God
If we’re absorbed with fearing God, there is no time or energy left with which to fear men. But we’re human. So naturally, we’ll waver from time to time. All the more reason to be absorbed in fearing God.
Some preachers fear for their paycheck because their church culture is as such that they must preach to please men, not God. Others avoid words like “repent,” or “sin,” in favor of softer language that is less offensive. But such language is in the Bible, and therefore, directly given by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is impossible to preach with a deep reverence for God when busy catering to the mood swings of people or tip-toeing around hard truths. That is not God’s will for His church or His preachers. Churches need to expect their pastors to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. It does not do a church any good to have preachers that are little more than puppets.
Jesus’ sobering reminder in Matthew 10:28 is fitting here as He declared to His disciples, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
The church needs preachers who fear God; who are unashamed and unreserved as they boldly enter the pulpit and unleash logic on fire.
- The church needs preaching that feeds them Scripture
It’s easy to find great stories, emotional manipulation, and cultural pandering in many pulpits today. It’s harder to find biblical preaching. A dear pastor friend will often exhort younger men to ask themselves this convicting question when assessing their approach to preaching: “Am I using the Bible to preach my message, or is the Bible using me to preach its message?”
The bottom line is: the church needs Scripture. No matter how important the financial needs of a church are, no matter what programs the church wants to push or what upcoming events need to be announced, the most important item of “business” when the church gathers is not the business of fundraising or convincing people to register for the women’s tea, it is the business of feeding sheep the word of God. Many practical things will certainly need to (and should) happen when the church gathers, but nothing is more essential than preaching.
Like those in John 12:21 who came to Philip with a request, the church must demand of its preacher: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
- The church needs preaching that focuses on eternity
Richard Baxter exclaimed, “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”
This is eternal perspective in preaching. A preacher should rightly ask himself, “What if this were the last sermon I ever preached?” Not only that, but the church needs preaching that points them to their eternal home. The letters of 1 & 2 Peter are the embodiment of eternal focus in amid a chaotic culture. Peter places a strong emphasis on the fact that believers are aliens, sojourners, or exiles, just passing through while here on earth. Our citizenship is in heaven.
A faithful preacher doesn’t guarantee “your best life now.” A faithful preacher declares that your best life is yet to come.
- The church needs preaching that is fueled by love
On the subject of a preacher’s love, Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach quite another.”
Love is giving people the truth. Love is preaching with a moist eye. Love is seeing them as souls in need of their beautiful Savior!
As a young pastor, I was once in a meeting where I heard a leader refer to people as “giving units.” I’d never heard such a term but quickly realized that this how many church administrations view people. Such talk is disgusting for a preacher of God’s word and whether one realized it or not, such talk trains the mind to view people as a means to the financial bottom line. Yes, we can make projections and see families within the local church as those who support the work of ministry and allow that budgets be created and sustained. But they are never to be referred to or seen as “giving units.” They are precious people who need the gospel. And, their giving and spiritual gifts are the outworking of gospel transformation that occurs when God uses the loving and faithful preaching of church leaders (Ephesians 4:12).
In 1 Timothy 1:5 Paul reminds his young protégé in the faith, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Preachers motivated not by money or pragmatic results, but by love, are what the church needs today.
If you’re a preacher, may you fulfill your ministry with a heart of love for God’s glory and God’s people. If you’re a member of Christ’s flock, may you find and flourish in pastures led by faithful preachers of God’s word.