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Midwestern alum lists convictions for what biblical preaching is

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–“I do not have happy memories in this chapel,” confessed David Baker, pastor of First Baptist Church, Belton, Mo., and a 1978 alumnus of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Speaking to the Sept. 5 chapel, Baker said, “I was a student who was most miserable.”

Relating his frustrations while a student, Baker continued, “While I was at Midwestern, I never heard a message on soul-winning. I never heard a message dealing with the Bible as the inerrant, infallible Word of God.” Though treated well, Baker said he was referred to by faculty members as “the resident fundamentalist.”

Upon graduation, Baker determined he would someday see a change in the direction of the Kansas City, Mo., seminary. “And through the years I lived up to that commitment,” he said, noting his son who is now a student at Midwestern does not have a single professor who does not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.

“I am an expositional preacher. My goal is to continue preaching the Bible verse by verse until the Lord renders me incapable of doing so,” Baker declared. “I believe expositional preaching is the only kind of preaching that God ultimately honors.” While topical or testimonial approaches have their place, Baker insisted, “If you do not preach the Bible expositionally, you will not cover all that needs to be covered. It is the only way to discipline yourself to the task.”

Using 2 Timothy 4:1-2 as his text, Baker said, “I do not believe that you can worship without preaching. If you analyze both the Old and New Testament, you will find that preaching was always central to worship.” While worship can occur without music, Baker added, “It is possible to have music that is not worship and to have never worshiped because you never have had biblical preaching.”

Baker noted that verse one of 2 Timothy 4 includes a command with an “or else.” The command is “I charge you.” The “or else” is God’s judgment. Describing the command to “preach the word,” Baker said, “There is a difference between preaching, teaching and speaking. Preaching is authoritative and intense. It has the power to change lives. Preach the Word. Do not just suggest the truth.”

Recognizing that it is difficult to define the difference between preaching and teaching, Baker related a college speech he prepared on orangutans. Having no library resource to illustrate the particular animal, Baker said he prepared a slide show of other animals to depict what an orangutan is not. Following that approach in his sermon, Baker enumerated “What Preaching Is Not.”

Beginning with the instruction that preaching is not vainly repetitive or simplistic, Baker noted that Paul’s instruction to Timothy indicated that God’s people need to hear the Word. “It disciplines them. It transforms them. It gives them hope,'” Baker said.

Furthermore, preaching is not bizarre practices, Baker said, referring to ecstatic tongues, visions and dreams, barking like a dog, laughing hysterically, roaring like lions and fainting in the Spirit or being glued to the floor.

And preaching is not simplistic group therapy. “That is what I heard when I was here at school,” Baker recalled. “The model was the therapeutic church,” he said, describing a goal of making everybody well. “But the problem is not sickness. The problem is sin. There is a difference. Sin is more than sickness.” Because sin results in death, Baker said there is need of a Savior. “You do not get well from sin, you get forgiven. You get transformed.”

Preaching is not shallow cliches and warm fuzzy easy fix-its, Baker continued. Reviewing sermon titles that appear on the religion page of the local newspaper, Baker said, “It is astounding to see the number of how-to sermon titles that are reported. `How to fix your marriage.’ `How to raise your children.’ `How to make more money at work.’ `How to be successful in relationships.’ By the time I am done reading, I am furious. Folks, why are we preaching fix-it messages like we can fix anything?”

Noting his own lack of expertise and shortcomings in dealing with everyday life, Baker said, “I will not stand in front of my church and say, `Now this is the way you raise kids.’ But I will preach what the Bible says. I believe that if we walk with God, that is going to cover everything. It may sound simplistic but it is not. Walking with God is complex stuff. It is a lot more challenging to walk with God than it is to fix your marriage. In fact, you may never hear a sermon how to fix your marriage, but if you walk with God your marriage will get better.”

Preaching is not mean-spirited legalism, Baker said. “I am not a legalist,” he noted. “I do not like legalism. I am a Bible-believing particular Baptist. I know my historic roots and I intend to walk that path.”

Stating that preaching is not false philosophy, Baker said, “We do not need to know any more philosophy. We need to know God.” Recalling a seminary class in which the professor “expounded one neo-orthodox theologian after another,” Baker said, “I have to tell you I was as disgusted at that moment as at any point in my life because I could see no hope in that kind of existentialism. How does it make sense to say that the Bible is true in what it accomplishes but it is not true scientifically and historically? How can we preach that to our people and expect anybody’s life to be changed?”

Neither is preaching to be regarded as pseudo-theology, Baker continued. Recalling the development of his own theology, he said, “I just grew up in Baptist churches where people believed the Book and were committed to it. I never really thought about the doctrines of grace. I just knew when Jesus saved me, and he did it all.”

By preaching the truth, Baker said, people have to deal with it. “They can get mad. They can leave. It will follow them. Just preach the truth and trust that God will take care of it.”

As a result, Baker counseled the seminarians to be prepared go wherever he leads and “to die in obscurity, unappreciated. Then you have a chance of doing it right.”

There is no greater promise than to walk with God by following his calling, Baker said. “It is sufficient just to walk with Jesus. Love the people and preach the Word.”

    About the Author

  • Larry B. Elrod