The Pulpit and the Pew

“It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
“What does this babbler want to say?” (Acts 17:18).
Preaching gets a bad rap, but evidently not for the first time in history. Many these days want to diminish preaching — emphasize “praise time” and “share time” in its place. Why has preaching fallen on such hard times?
“Ten minutes into the sermon,” Charles Hodge declares, “the audience should be oblivious to the speaker. The preacher allows God to speak … Kill the pulpit, and you kill the church. Fire up the pulpit, and you fire up the church. How can one praise God while refusing to listen to him?” (“Preach the Word,” Gospel Advocate, November 2002.)
Author John Stott contends that every great revival in the history of God’s people has begun with great preaching. The Old Testament prophets were less predictors of future events, and more preachers of present needs. Jesus was a preacher. “From that time on,” Matthew recalls, “Jesus began to preach” (Matthew 4:17). The Protestant Reformation began when it moved from muttering creeds and repeating Mass to preaching, and the great Protestant churches of the twentieth Century died because they ceased preaching.
The Puritans, now thoughtlessly dismissed as eccentrics in funny clothes, began their revival with powerful, Biblical, fire-in-the bones preaching. And our own Restoration Movement began because Campbell and Stone were not just editors and writers, but preachers!
If all great revivals began with preaching, it follows that God’s people die when the preaching fails, when it is diluted and gutted of substance. Great preaching does not refer to eloquence, but passion; its origin is not from higher education, but from the highest source; it does not begins with “And then there was the bar tender and the two turtles …” but with “and the Lord said …”
There is much talk of “worship renewal” these days; may I suggest a more fundamental change? What about preaching renewal?

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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