The preacher uses words to deliver the message of the gospel. They are the brush he wields to paint the vibrant colors of heaven, the vivid reds of the cross and the victories of salvation.
I wonder, though, how many preachers make the connection between their commission and the mastery of language. A novelist lives and dies by the power of words in order to produce more compelling prose.
While preachers and writers differ in their medium, they should share the same vision of changing the world around them.
A minister of the gospel stands before his listeners to “Preach the Word!” (2 Timothy 4:2, NKJV). How does he get the Word into the hearts of his listeners so it can bring about a change (Hebrews 4:12)?
He must diminish himself and magnify the message by utilizing all of the skills at his disposal.
The preacher engages the listener with an incisive message that resonates with the people in the pews. The illustrations and visual images in his repertoire are the brush strokes on the canvas.
Sadly, if the preacher is not growing and digging deep within himself and his knowledge of the human psyche, he can usually forget about transforming the congregation with the Word. God deserves better.
Preachers must do the following if they will reach the lost, provoking hunger for Christ.
First, find the best paints. Become a voracious reader of quality material and study the masters in order to grow. The words constituting the palatte of the artist must be vibrant and fresh.
Second, learn the audience. A preacher that will move souls must be a wise student of humanity. We study their thoughts, words, ideas and dreams to produce works of art that reflect their own world.
Listeners come to sermons with defenses to deflect the message that charges them with sin. Preachers who are scholars of humanity will know how to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), while eluding their defenses and pricking their hearts with the message (Acts 2:37-38).
Third, broaden the canvas. Preachers will rejuvenate their sermons by continually learning and growing in his knowledge of words and the ways of men. Coupling this with an increased insight into God’s Word will lead to significant growth.
If we continually paint on a new canvas, the message is always fresh and viable. If we continually trot out old, used canvasses, the audience gets bored with the recycled message.
If we refuse to grow, we are marking time and simply filling in the blanks. In truth, we are insulting our readers and listeners by force-feeding them leftovers on a weekly basis.
Preachers, will we grow in God’s Word and in our use of language? Will we respect our audience enough to do the work necessary to help them grow closer to God?
Will this be about God and the lost or simply about preachers and their comfort zones?
Our answers to these questions may be painful but they will always be pertinent.