Friday, 1 May 2009

What is preaching?

Justice Potter Stewart famously said of pornography: 'I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.' Often we can feel the same about preaching. It's difficult to define what makes preaching, or certainly what makes 'good' preaching, but we know it when we see or hear it. Or as Lloyd-Jones says:
Preaching is [...] difficult to define. [...] Preaching is something that one recognises when one hears it. So the best we can do is say certain things about it...
Preaching and Preachers p. 81.
And those certain things are:
  • It involves the whole of the preacher
  • It has a sense of authority and control over the congregation and the proceedings
  • It contains an element of freedom (on the part of the preacher)
  • The preacher derives something from the congregation (in that he observes and feeds off and responds to the congregation)
  • It is serious
  • It is zealous
  • It is warm
  • It is urgent
  • It is persuasive
  • It is powerful

How does your preaching stack up to this? Would Lloyd-Jones calls what he hears in your church on Sunday preaching? Are there other things that you would want to say about what makes preaching?

But let's allow the great man the last word:
What is preaching? Logic on fire! Eloquent reason! [...] It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology, or at least the man's understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology come through a man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. I say again that a man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one. What is the chief end of preaching? I like to think it is this. It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence.
Preaching and Preachers, p. 97.