The Title of Haddon Robinson’s book, Biblical Preaching, at first seems to be a bit of an oxymoron. Is there really any other kind of preaching? Is there really a way to preach that is not Biblical? The answer to this question is a resounding yes! And I’ve got the past perspective to prove it!
Today I received a text from a man whom I have been studying the Bible with. To be honest, I was both shocked and hurt! I was driving to our next time together, not more than 3 minutes from the location when I heard the familiar sound of a notification. I pulled over and read the text and my heart sank. “We spent over a month with this guy and he dumps us, just like that!” My thoughts rang out of my mouth before I could catch them, “And for what? A lousy sermon!” I could feel the resentment creep into my heart. “It wasn’t his best work,” “He didn’t spend much time talking about Jesus,” “Hey, this guy has a point, it was more hype than substance!” Can you tell that his issue was with the sermon?
The Need for Biblical Preaching
I wish that I could say that this story was imaginary, but it is all too true. Last Sunday I felt every word and more. I was not just tempted to, but I gave into my insecurity, fear and shame at my evangelists preaching after I received the text from the guy I’d studied with. What it brought back to me was more than just feelings of hurt that someone, who I had poured my heart into, backed out of being a Disciple, it took me to a root of pain that I had not known existed before and that God was bringing to the surface.
After the fall of the International Churches of Christ, my love for preaching began to wane. The hurt and pain I had felt at the hands of some preachers, whether it be false teaching, scriptures taken out of context, unloving speech from the pulpit, you name it. I gave into the notion that “We were not deep enough in our teachings,” and “We need less ra-ra sermons and more deep study.” These sayings, while true, came with the idea that if someone preaches with passion, they must not be truly digging into the scriptures.
We needed shorter services, therefore smaller sermons, and we needed more needs based ministry work to be done. That was how we were truly going to meet people’s needs. Haddon Robinson writes clearly what was in my mind at that time in my life: “The moving finger has passed [Biblical preaching] by and now points to other methods and ministries that are more “effective” and in tune with the times.” Preaching was for those who were not so mature and we had moved well beyond that. No more preaching from the heart, but from the mind. For after all, wasn’t it the heart that got us into the mess we were in the first place? While some preachers would do well and feed the flock with depth, and passion, many, like me, went the way of the stuffy academic, and in so doing, lost our love for the passionate preaching that moved hearts and minds to action for God!
I can remember coming back to the Kingdom after years of exile; the times when, graciously, I would be allowed to preach sermons in Denver, and how people would enjoy the depth that I brought to the pulpit, but very rarely was anyone stirred to action. This lack of impact was a byproduct of the fire for the Word inside being almost snuffed out by fear and shame. This was the same fear and shame that came back to me while on the side of the road reading that friend’s text.
A Holy Moment
It was a holy moment that I just happened to be reading Haddon Robinson’s book Biblical Preaching around the same time I received the text. God was up to something, even in the pain of someone choosing the world over Him, and He was not going to let it go to waste. I had forgotten what the Bible says about preaching, and if I’m honest, I never really knew what the Bible said about it. These past few years being back in the Kingdom have been times of building deep convictions. Things I believed and took for granted now have had to become the roots in my life. Passionate, Biblical preaching has become one of those core convictions that I have had to find and rebuild again.
Preaching is both an art and a science. One must not just be an academic teacher, but also a motivational speaker that can cause people’s hearts to act and be moved to respond to the message of the Scriptures. God desires us to read, study and know deeply the treasure hidden deep in the layers of the Word, which are able to inspire our families, our friends and fellow Disciples to action and deep love for the one who breathed it. But this can only be done if one is not ashamed of the Word, not ashamed of it being preached, no matter what some reactions will be (Luke 9:26).
By applying it to our lives first, then applying it to others, sharing vulnerably from our own shortcomings and allowing our own lives to be molded and shaped by our personal Bible study; only then will we be able to passionately preach God’s word as it was meant to be. As Mr. Robinson states in his book: “The audience does not hear a sermon; it hears a person—it hears you.”
Effective preaching in the Bible like Peter (Acts 2:36-40), Paul (Acts 28:23-24), and Jesus (John 1:9-12) will always cause division. The Bible divides and those who preach the Bible will divide their hearers. As someone has quoted, Biblical preaching will “disturb the comforted and comfort the disturbed.” People either accept the message or, for whatever reason end up hating the messenger. Why should I be surprised and ashamed that my message, or even my evangelist’s message will have any different effect.
I had a holy moment on the side of the road. The moment when I made the declaration that preaching the Word of God is the only cure for all the ills of humanity because Jesus is the only cure, and the only way that people will know about Jesus is through His Word being preached by radical, passionate and humble men and women who are not fearful or ashamed to follow in the ancient footsteps of the Disciples who have gone before them.
The Holy Bible: New International Version. Hodder & Stoughton, 1984.
Robinson, Haddon W. Biblical Preaching: the Development and Delivery of Expository Messages. Baker Academic, a Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2014.