LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Churches need a preaching reformation that will restore expository sermons to their rightful place at the heart of Christian worship, said Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. at the annual Power in the Pulpit preaching conference.
“We all hope for … a reformation and recovery of preaching in our day,” Mohler said during the March 14-15 sessions at the seminary’s Louisville, Ky., campus. “We long to see in our churches a reactivation of the pulpit, a recovery of the power of God’s Word as a preached Word.”
The need for a reformation is evidenced by the short sermons and the minimal emphasis placed on preaching in many congregations, Mohler said.
“Reformation is not going to happen in our churches until it shows up in the pulpit,” he said. “And it’s not going to happen until preaching is again paramount in the worship life of the community of faith.”
Drawing from 2 Timothy 1, Mohler cited several actions that ministers can take to reform preaching.
First, ministers must kindle afresh the gift of preaching.
Giftedness in preaching is comparable to a flame that must be fanned and encouraged if it is to reach its full potential, Mohler said, noting that the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in encouraging the preacher.
“We are not alone in this,” he said. “… When we preach the Word … the Spirit is preaching alongside us. The Spirit is taking the words where we can never take them. And the Spirit is applying them in ways that are invisible even to the life in which they are applied.”
The transforming effect of preaching may take time to manifest itself in listeners’ lives, but preachers must remember that transformed lives eventually will result from their faithful exposition, Mohler said.
“It may take a long time to show up,” he said. “It may show up in the crucible of decision. It may show up in the context of a relationship. It may show up in the crisis of an encounter. But it will show up.”
Second, ministers must preach in a manner characterized by power, love and discipline, Mohler said, noting that the power in preaching is not man-centered but God-centered.
“It’s not personal power. It’s not political power. It’s not psychological power. We’re not in the pulpit because we’re wise or because we have some particular insight into the human psyche or because we have some kind of political agenda,” Mohler said.
“We’re in the pulpit because we’ve been assigned [to preach] the Word of God.”
Citing the early church father Augustine, Mohler said the power of preaching must be accompanied by a love for God, a love for truth, a love for the listeners and a love for teaching.
Ministers also must recognize that an effective preaching ministry requires discipline, self-control and prudence, he said.
Biblical preaching may result in suffering on the part of the preacher, but such preaching will eventuate in the Gospel being spread to lost men and women, Mohler said.
“At the end of the day, brothers, that’s what keeps us in the pulpit,” he said. “It is the knowledge that there is only one Gospel that saves and it’s that Gospel that saves all who believe. It’s the Gospel that shows the power of God. It’s the Gospel for which we were appointed preachers and teachers.”
Mohler concluded by offering five specific ways in which preachers should kindle afresh their gifts:
— Go hear great preaching.
— Pick one preacher each year, and listen to his sermons on a regular basis that year.
— Read great books on preaching.
— Work on one particularly challenging preaching project each year.
— Teach someone else how to preach.
“This is a time for boldness,” Mohler said. “This is a time to kindle afresh the gift that is within us. Brethren, I’m thankful for this gift the Lord has entrusted to His church and entrusted to you and entrusted to us. I hope that in the course of these days this gift is kindled afresh in you.”