A Note on Preaching
St Wilfrid's we see preaching as part of our worship.
A Sunday morning sermon
is usually somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes long.
We often preach through a series of varying length, ranging from whole books of the Bible to smaller portions of
a book. However, although we are not restricted to consecutive expository sermons we do use the Bible as our authority in all preaching, and we aim
for a balanced diet, looking to God for leading.
the third Sunday (Holy Communion) we sometimes go for a more
devotional emphasis. This is, after all, a service primarily for
Christians, when we have the privilege of coming to join God at table
and to 'commune' with him.
On all other Sundays we have what in Anglican terminology is called a 'Service of the Word', and the aim of the sermon is simply to expound the text.
Sometimes sermons deliberately seek to point those who are not yet Christians (or are in doubt) to faith in Christ. Such sermons are also helpful to Christians for three main reasons:
- They should excite Christians who ought never to be bored by the gospel.
- They should help Christians by modelling arguments that encourage faith.
- They keep the gospel, salvation, and being born again, as urgent needs at the centre of our worship. (This after all, is the chief purpose of Holy Communion: 'to proclaim His death until He comes')
But all sermons ought to have one or more of a number of high aims, which when considered show why we deem this tradition, practised since the earliest days of the Christian Church (and with some parallels in the Jewish synagogue worship) very much a part of our 'worship services.' Some of these aims include:
- The primary aim is that of demonstrating that as Christians we come under the authority of God, whose words are heard in the Bible. (We demonstrate that when we open his word and give it a central place in our worship - the very reason our Protestant fathers made their pulpits high.)
- We do this too, recognising that God gives gifts to make that authoritative word 'come to life' so that we can hear him speak to us.
- An aspect of corporate and reverent worship is to come expectantly, not to be entertained, but to hear from God. (Some churches have a tradition by which they hold up a copy of the Gospels in the centre of the congregation - this illustrates what the high pulpits, and making Bible teaching central to worship, also illustrate.)
- To teach Christian doctrine and values
- To challenge believers to a closer walk with God
- To model arguments in support of our faith
- To expose errors and traps the devil loves to lead God's people into
- To help reveal God's beauty and praise worthiness
- To draw believers into the presence of the true and living, and holy God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- To bring men and women to a place of humility and to emphasise the glory and pre-eminence of God in Christ Jesus.
- To see the glory come! (And oh that this aspect of preaching had not been almost lost sight of from the modern church. Oh that we would not fear it as something mystical and almost weird, but recognise that God wants to visit his people.)
- But the glory coming isn't an end in itself. But, we add: To allow church to spill over into the community so that we really are a blessing to those around us. This is often referred to as revival or awakening. And it always brings transformations in its wake. It creates strong Christian disciples rather than people who won't turn up unless you offer some kind of 'program' or pasta!
Yes, these aims are very high. And, every preacher/teacher, knows how much they fall short of these objectives. And so we not only covet your prayers. But we also seek constantly to be challenged to be more God honouring; to watch our behaviour so as not to preach what we do not follow; and to seek God's blessing in this valuable part of our worship.
Every preacher/teacher also knows by experience, the fellowship (or participation) that is found by corporate preaching in the church. There is a very special sense in which God does something beyond what we can analyse by mere bullet points. And He does it to the preacher as well as the hearers.
This 'mysterious' aspect to preaching, which does its work almost unnoticed, may be highlighted by an illustration George Verwer once used. George was seeking to encourage believers who were concerned they retained little of what they read in the Bible, But the same can be said for what we retain from preaching:
"A man went daily to gather water in a wicker basket. He bemoaned the fact that without a better receptacle he would continue to gather very little water. But, a wise onlooker remarked: 'Friend, though you may be gathering a scant supply of water, it cannot be denied that you have a very clean basket!"
Soli Deo gloria!