The most important work that is done in any community any week is the work of the gospel preacher. And that includes New York, Hollywood, and Washington. What happens in New York affects world finances or fashion; the talent in Hollywood produces entertainment that keeps a few faces famous, a few wallets fat, and several million amused; and decisions made in Washington change the world for better or worse, but what the preacher does will matter when the world is on fire and Wall Street and Rodeo Drive and Pennsylvania Avenue are no more (2 Peter 3:10).
The world does not see it this way, of course. They hardly notice what we do, and if they do, they condemn it as intolerant, discount it as unnecessary, or ridicule it as insensible. This should not surprise anyone, for this has been the case since the church was new. Paul wrote, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness. Still, those in the know knew better: But unto us which are saved it is the power of God…For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21).”
The word ‘preach’ (in various forms) is found 159 times in the Bible. Consider a sampling of verses:
• John the Baptist came preaching (Matthew 3:1).
• God sent Jesus to preach (Luke 4:43).
• Jesus preached in synagogues, and from city to city (Matthew 4:17, 23; 9:35).
• Jesus’ first sermon in His home church was on the subject of preaching (Luke 4:17-19).
• Jesus’ last words on earth were about preaching: “Go ye into all the world, and preach
the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).”
• The apostles obeyed this command, for the historian records: “And daily in the temple,
and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ (Acts 5:42).”
• The church began with dynamic preaching on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
• The early disciples who were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching (Acts 8:4).
• When the Samaritans believed Philip preaching, they were baptized, both men and
women (Acts 8:12).
• Paul stood ready to preach: “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel
to you that are at Rome also (Romans 1:15).”
• Paul considered it a privilege to preach: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all
saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable
riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).”
What is the work of the preacher?
Many descriptions have been given to the work of preaching. Someone said that one could sum up a preacher’s relationship to the congregation with three words: hatch, match, and dispatch. That is, he was involved in member’s lives from start to finish. When children are born he is there to celebrate; when they begin the marital journey, he is there to perform the wedding; and when they graduate to the next world, he is there to deliver the funeral message. The late Wendell Winkler often said that the preacher’s work consisted of three Es: evangelize, edify, and enlist. He explained that this meant preachers are to continually emphasize teaching the lost (keeping cottage studies going one night a week), encouraging the saved (through visiting and Bible classes), and reproducing themselves by involving others in the Lord’s work (young men’s training classes, encouraging talented men to attend preacher training institutions) (2 Timothy 2:2).
Let’s look at a preacher’s work from a different perspective.
Learn and turn. The preacher is first a teacher; the instructor is first a disciple. Paul described himself: “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity (1 Timothy 2:7; cf. 2 Timothy 1:11).” Paul’s classic text on preaching includes the teaching aspect of preaching: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine1 (2 Timothy 4:2).” Paul wrote to the young preacher, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine2 (1 Timothy 4:13).” Doctrine in these passages means teaching.
To teach, one must learn. To learn, one must study. To study, one must weekly dedicate the mental energy and the clock time to deliver four carefully researched thirty- to forty-minute gospel presentations. The average sermon contains about 5,000 words. Most preachers deliver about 100 sermons a year (not to mention another 100 Bible classes). This totals 500,000 words a year. An average full-length novel contains 50,000 words, so a preacher is producing the equivalent of ten full-length novels every year. Even Louis L’Amour didn’t do that! (He tried to write five pages a day, and was considered a prolific writer). Most popular novelists turn out one, or two, novels per year. Needless to say, a few minutes on Saturday night with a sermon outline book or on SermonCentral.com is insufficient. Shallow, ill-thought-out sermons have little influence. Like a dull sword, they hardly prick the skin of the heart. Like a bland, low-calorie diet, they give little nourishment and less taste.
Teaching is an ongoing process (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 5:11-12). Hearing the truth is not a one-time vaccination against sin – it is a lifetime prescription dispensed in small doses. One preacher posted this Frederick Danker quote on the inside of his study door: “The Gospel is a fuel required constantly to produce and promote the life of the Spirit within the Christian. The fruits of the Spirit grow only where the Gospel is sown tirelessly and unremittingly.”
~ Allen Webster ~
1. The Greek for doctrine here is didache, but in 2 Timothy 3:16, didascalia. Didascalia is what one receives; didache is what is communicated [Tittmann] (Robertson’s Word Pictures).
2. Didache, KJV – doctrine 29, has been taught 1; 30; the act of teaching, instruction.