I still remember several years ago when a man was talking to me, as the new preacher at church, about how I differed from previous pastors he had known. I believe what he said went something like, “you know, you’re more like one of those teacher preachers. I’m used to preachers who really preach.” I can’t even say I understood what he was talking about, but I know how it felt. It felt like he was saying, “I don’t like your preaching. You are too busy talking about the Bible and don’t tell enough good stories that connect with people.” I admit, what I heard and what he was saying may have been completely different.
The fact remains we have become a highly entertained society. We like good stories and lots of illustration in the preaching. Truthfully, we need some of that in our sermons because we must connect with our people and apply the Word of God in way that help people to understand and live it out. At the same time, it seems like many people want a preacher is just as much comedian/story-teller as anything. Here’s the problem: we will never be fed, spiritually, on good stories and illustrations. Again, good preaching relies on these tools, and I certainly seek to get them in, but what matters in the sermon is not the story, but the Word of God.
The text drives the sermon. When a pastor is called of god to preach he is called to help people know and apply the Word of God to their lives. Anything less that that will never do. Paul points this out in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” It is the Scripture that is of God. It is the scripture that is inspired. It is the scripture that is needed to guide, affect, and grow a person’s spiritual life. The Word of God is the medium that the Spirit uses to make us more like Him. The truth is, we need less stories and more proclamation of the scriptures because we need more true disciples. We are equipped through the scriptures.
Scripture has power. It changes lives. The problem is that our sin nature can drag us away from that truth if we are not vigilant. Paul goes on to say in 2 Timothy 4:2-4, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
This is where we need to be very careful. We like to have our ears tickled. We want to hear something entertaining and enjoyable, but what God has to say to us is not always that way. It’s like my children. They love it when I proclaim that we are going to out to dinner tonight. They hate it when I say it’s time to clean their rooms, but both are necessary in their given time. We have a culture that tends to move towards the preacher who says what they want to hear in a way they want to hear it, but that is not truly listening for the word of God.
Each week during our services we will be walking through the scriptures mining it for something that will move us closer to Christ-likeness. Some weeks it will be the moving and wonderful passages about God’s love and salvation. Some weeks it will bring us to tears and repentance. It will always, as much as I am humanly able to bring it, be the Word of God.
So, what do you do about it? First, train yourself to long for the word of God more than you long for the word of man. What man has to say will not save you and will rarely change you. What God says always will. Second, listen to learn. Seek to learn the Word of God and be taught through the preaching. The point of sitting under the Word of God is to learn and be transformed by it. Let it do its work. Last, apply it. Ask yourself this question each and every week: “What can I take with me this week that will change my life as I seek to live it out?” Look for something that will bring you closer to Christ and to be more like Him.