Definition of Preaching

There are many things that I enjoy doing. I enjoy reading, but there is little I enjoy reading more than a classic book.  Since we are on vacation this week, I have brought several books to read.  One of them was given to me by a fellow minister who attends our church.  It is a classic book on preaching that was written in 1898 and published in 1902.  The Making of a Sermon by T. Harwood Pattison is a book about the classical preacher and his sermons.

I have studied many books on preaching.  Most of them have been modern approaches to communicating.  I believe that pastors ought to learn to become greater preachers.  So, that is why we read books on preaching and teaching.  There are alot of great modern books that describe how to creatively speak to this media generation and I agree that we must communicate the gospel in ways that people will grasp.  However, I think sometimes in our modern culture we miss a few of the key elements of communicating like what was seen in past generations.

One of those key elements is that the pastor must be changed by his message before it can change others.  Longfellow said, “To me, a sermon is no sermon in which I cannot hear the heartbeat.”  I am searching my own heart to make sure that my messages reveal my heart beat.  Is what I am preaching a direct result of my relationship with God and His Word or is it only a communication that others are preaching?

In The Making of the Sermon, Pattison quotes John Ruskin’s, Stones of Venice and in this quote I believe is found the greatest definition of preaching I have heard. 

Ruskin writes:
“When breathless and weary with the week’s labor they give the preacher this interval of imperfect and languid hearing, he has about thirty minutes to get at the separate hearts of a thousand men, to convince them of all their weaknesses, to shame them from all their sins, to warn them of all their dangers, to try, by this way and that, to stir the hard fastenings of those doors where the Master himself has stood and knocked, yet none opened, and to call at the openings of those dark streets where Wisdom herself has stretched forth her hands, and no man regarded.  Thirty minutes to raise the dead in!”

The calling of the preacher is a hard task.  Not only does the preacher have to hold the attention of the hearer, but he also must preach to bring conviction and change.  Preaching must be relevant to people’s needs but also, the main call of preaching must be discipleship and developing Christ-followers.  Convincing people there is more to this life than what they already have.  Preaching the Word in such a way that helps them but also changes them.  Preaching is not an easy task, that is why the preacher must walk with God and hear His voice.

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