the weblog of Alan Knox

Preach the word…

Posted by on May 5, 2007 in discipleship, edification | 14 comments

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul exhorted his young associate to “Preach the word” or “proclaim the message”. Especially since the reformation, this command has taken center stage during the meeting of the church. But, what does it mean to preach the word? When Paul commanded this to Timothy, did he have in mind what we see today? Perhaps… but, what if Paul meant something different… something simpler…

This is what Dave Black said on his blog today (5/5/2007) at 8:10 a.m.:

On this Cinco de Mayo I’m sitting here thinking about my Sunday message and saying to myself, Where in the New Testament is there the “well-crafted homily”? Where is the excellency of speech that is so highly sought-after in preachers today? Does not the beauty of New Testament preaching lie in a completely different direction? Should not our preaching be like that of our Lord and His great apostle? Jesus spoke in the very simplest language with mundane illustrations. Paul eschewed the excellence of human oratory. I want my public speaking to be powerful (in the Spirit) and passionate (in the spirit) but I also want to be understood by the commonest man from the workaday world. May God forgive me for the times I’ve sought to dress up the simple Word in the gaudy garments of worldly wisdom.

Fancy sermons that focus on rhetoric as much as content inadvertantly teach people that they cannot preach the word. But, I think Jesus expected all believers to teach and proclaim his message. Let’s model this for other believers.


14 Comments

  1. 5-5-2007

    Alan,

    Thanks for sharing this, it is very encouraging. Dr. Black is going to have to watch his back though, some of the preaching teachers at SEBTS might be after him if they read his blog.

    As you know, I am currently enrolled in Bible Exposition (which is the first section of the preaching classes). We are taught almost the exact opposite approach to preaching/teaching. We must find the perfect illustrations, we are urged to use dynamic and inventive words, etc. etc. etc.

    It is all very tiring.
    Lew

  2. 5-5-2007

    Alan,

    I think you’re on to something. A few years ago, my husband and I were confronted with this. One morning a new believer, who only had an 8th-grade education, came up to us and told us that she was unable to understand anything that my husband had preached that morning; she didn’t even know the meaning of many of the words my husband had used. She loved Jesus but felt defeated. It was an eye-opening confession. Oh, Lord, forgive us! Jesus’ message is simple. How did we make it so confusing and complicated?

    I hope this concept is explored a little further. Thanks for bringing it up!
    Mary

  3. 5-5-2007

    Alan,

    One issue tied to this may be that of the “paid pastor.” Once a pastor is paid, he may feel that he needs to justify this by crafting some sort of oratorical masterpiece. The result may sound nice to the ears of other seminary grads, but to many laypeople it may ring in their ears as nothing more than nonsense.

    We should teach/preach in a way that is both understandable and encouraging to people. If we show them that they can understand the Bible, they will want to study it themselves. When we make it overly complex, we turn ourselves into something similar to Gnostics.

    Eric

  4. 5-6-2007

    Lew,

    I think we are learning some of the same things when it comes to preaching and teaching. I think we can teach using simple terms.

    Mary,

    Wow… thank you so much for sharing that. I’m going to keep your story in mind whenever I teach.

    Eric,

    I think you may be right. I am all for less complex and more simple instruction. I also agree that the issue of pay is related to this.

    -Alan

  5. 5-6-2007

    Alan,

    One Sunday, in the late 70′s, a graduating student from the Baptist Theological College in Sydney came to preach at the church my wife and I attended.

    There was an elderly deacon, whose name was Charley, a farmer who was educated in the school of hard knocks, a gracious man who impressed me as really KNOWING God.

    After the service Charley was walking towards me running his gnarled fingers through the thin hair on the top of his head, his brow deeply furrowed.

    “What’s wrong Charley?”

    “I heard him speaking, but I don’t know what he said”, was Charley’s careful response.

  6. 5-6-2007

    Aussie John,

    Perhaps teachers would be better at teaching if they used words and phrases that the people being taught understood. This seems to be what Jesus did. He used metaphors, parables, and stories based on the lives of the people he was teaching. Of coures, that means that we as teachers must actually know the people we are teaching.

    -Alan

  7. 5-7-2007

    Alan,

    From what I calculate, there are 11 different greek verbs translated by the English verb “preach” in the KJV. However, it seems to me that none of them conveys a meaning that corresponds exactly to what goes on in a typical traditional modern-day church service. I think the failure to take this into account probably leads to a lot of confusion regarding the modern-day practice of “preaching.”

  8. 5-7-2007

    I have been operating on a hypothesis for some time now that “preaching” in the New Testament was largely related to proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers.

    I have a lot of trouble seeing “preaching” as a regular occurrence within the church itself.

  9. 5-7-2007

    What if it is simply carrying the good news of the Kingdom of God? Isn’t that what Jesus spoke of? Isn’t that even what he talked about in his 40 days back on earth with his followers before ascension? Hmmmm, what is the message we should carry. Kind of like asking what is “doctrine.”…

    We are ambassadors of Christ! Represent Him. Kingdom!!!!

  10. 5-7-2007

    Oh, Mary, great story! And, as a former attorney I think of this… Does a lawyer ever get up in front of a jury and tell them all the intricacy of the law..??? Nope, not at all. He or she weaves a great story together and doesn’t focus on the dots on the “i’s” of the legal letter. If the attorney is talking law it normally is because the facts are very badly skewed against his or her client.

  11. 5-7-2007

    David,

    You said: “I think the failure to take this into account probably leads to a lot of confusion regarding the modern-day practice of ‘preaching.’” I agree. This is also why I am careful about the way I use words like “worship” and “ministry” and “pastor” etc. We’re helping people misunderstand Scripture.

    Steve,

    I agree that in the NT “preaching” or “proclamation” was “largely related to proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers. When speaking to believers, Scripture uses words such as “teach” and “dialog”.

    Bryan,

    “Carrying the good news” may be a good way to thinking about “preaching”. We are heralds… we have news to tell.

    -Alan

  12. 5-7-2007

    Alan,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments to this post. I appreciate your blog and have seen many qualities of a great teacher (humility, love for Jesus and the Word, approachability, and love for people) in the tone and content of your posts.

    Bryan,
    Thanks, also, for the encouragement. I really liked your law analogy. I know that I have spent too much time and energy trying to sound witty, smart, and spiritual in my teachings. The message of Jesus is beautiful and persuasive already; He doesn’t need my inept attempts to make it better. When I try to do that, I inevitably shift the focus off of Him and onto myself. And I thought I didn’t like being the center of attention! :-)

    Mary

  13. 5-7-2007

    Mary,

    You may not know this, but God used your comment to greatly encourage me at a time when I needed it. Thank you!

    -Alan

  14. 5-7-2007

    Alan,

    I’m so glad you were encouraged. God just amazes me.

    Mary

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