In his book, “He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World,” Dr. Albert Mohler brilliantly unfolds a list of reasons why contemporary preaching seems to be suffering. The very first reason he gives is “contemporary preaching suffers from a loss of confidence in the power of the Word. He reminds us “contemporary Americans are surrounded by more words than any previous generation in human history. We are bombarded with words delivered to us in every conceivable form--sung, broadcast, electrified, printed, and spoken. Words have been digitalized, commercialized, and subjected to postmodern linguistic theories.”
Clearly we live in a world where according to Richard Avedon, “Images are fast replacing words as our primary language.” Mitchell Stevens of New York University agrees with this sentiment in The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word. He says, “The image is replacing the word as the predominant means of mental transport.” You might we wondering what in the world this has to do with us? The answer is that in this kind of climate increasingly churches are getting away from The Word of God. Preachers are “encouraged” to keep their sermons short. Some churches are opting for drama presentations, current movie scenes, “testimonials,” dialogue, and numerous other forms of communications. It seems that we want anything and everything except Gospel Preaching.
Our society loves new. Dr. William Willimon in his latest book, Undone by Easter: Keeping Preaching Fresh, says that, “What passes these days for new tends to be uncritical capitulation to the culture, subservience to a ‘tradition’ of the past three decades under the guise of innovation. In loving the new more than Jesus, we lay bare our deep accommodation to a capitalist culture. The market demand new in order to keep functioning. More consumers than believers, we shop for the ‘new and improved model’ of faith ‘that works for me.” Dr. Willimon concludes these thoughts by saying, “Any church that acts like a shopping mall is sure to be treated like one.”
Both of these astute men are correct (by the way, I would recommend that every preacher read these two books). While society may have one thing in mind, God has always placed a great deal of emphasis on the preaching of His Word. God told His man Jonah to go to Nineveh “and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” (Jonah 3:2) Another great man of God by the name of Micaiah was clear about the message that needed to be proclaimed. He boldly proclaimed, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I shall speak.” (1 Kings 22:14) An old friend of mine used to say, “the what of Divine Revelation must be the that of human proclamation.”
The New Testament continues to make it clear that we have no right to proclaim a new message. Paul’s instruction to his young protege is loud and clear. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2) He continued, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2) As a preacher these words strike me with a Holy fear each time I stand to proclaim God’s Word. It is the Word of God that is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) It is the Word of God that can change the lives of men, women, boys, and girls. It is the Word of God that will set men free (John 8:32). The question that keeps coming to mind is, “Why in the world would we want to preach anything other than the Word of God?” Methods may change, styles may differ, but we must not alter the message.
God’s Word is as fresh and relevant to the people of our day as it was the day it was written. When proclaimed powerfully, it will still thrill hearts, change lives, and save souls. From time to time we may lose confidence in those who teach the Word, but we should never lose confidence in the unchanging Word of the Lord.
Dear God, in a world where everybody wants something new, help us return to the familiarity of Your Word. Help us realize that You know better than we know what we need. Father, help us to see that Your Word still works to bring about better lives, and more importantly it can save our souls. Help us dear Lord to say with David, “Oh, how I love Thy Law...” Help us to meditate on Your Word, to make it a part of our daily lives, and help us Father to teach Your Word to others.