The all-pervading power of the Word of God continues to astound me. With one sentence, Paul has captivated my attention and humbled me under the deep conviction of my divine charge.
"Preach the Word!"
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:1-2, ESV)
For years, I read these words and only saw an emphatic statement that defined 'what' I should preach - the content - but in recent times, God has been shifting the spotlight. Without diminishing the importance of the Word, it is the verb 'preach' that has captivated my attention.
God has a divinely appointed, supernaturally equipped purpose for the proclamation of His Word.
In his excellent book, 'The Supremacy of God in Preaching', John Piper crystallises his thoughts on this topic by saying,
Gladness and gravity should be woven together in the life and preaching of a pastor in such a way as to sober the careless soul and sweeten the burdens of the saints. I say sweeten because it connotes some of the poignancy of the gladness I have in mind, and sets it off from the glib and petty attempts to stir up lightheartedness in a congregation.
Another way to say it would be this: Love for people does not take precious realities lightly (hence the call for gravity of preaching), and love for people does not load people with the burden of obedience without providing the strength of joy to help them carry it (hence the call for the gladness of preaching).
I deliberately used the heading 'Delivery' for this section, as I did not want to mistakingly infer a particular style of preaching will make someone great. Throughout the history of the church, thousands of truly great preachers have stood their ground and proclaimed the Word. It is unimaginable that all of them would have preached with the same flair and style. Some have gestured wildly - some have spoken with little animation. Voices have boomed across open fields or busy street-corners without aid of amplification - others have whispered quietly to captivated crowds. Some have paced with earnestness while others stood solemnly behind the pulpit. Style is a gift of the Creator, not a tool in the preachers workshop. Delivery is different to style.
When asked about his eloquence and presentation, it was described of Jonathan Edwards, whose ministry and preaching spearheaded deep and pervasive spiritual renewal, as follows by one who sat under his preaching:
He had no studied varieties of the voice, and no strong emphasis. He scarcely gestured, or even moved; and he made no attempt by the elegance of his style, or the beauty of his pictures, to gratify the taste, and fascinate the imagination. But, if you mean by eloquence, the power of presenting an important truth before an audience, with overwhelming weight of argument, and with such intenseness of feeling, that the whole soul of the speaker is thrown into every part of the conception and delivery; so that the solemn attention of the whole audience is riveted, from the beginning to the close, and impressions are left that cannot be effaced; Mr. Edwards was the most eloquent man I have ever heard speak.
Was Edwards' style used mightily by God? Undoubtedly!
Was he a George Whitefield or a C. H. Spurgeon? No! Neither aught he have been.
Each one, given a portion of God's grace, spoke in fulfilment of Scripture's demand. (1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV)
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
A great preacher takes his style, personality, experience, and whatever else God has shaped him by - these things he offers up at the alter in worship of his God. This sacrifice is given as a 'living sacrifice' whereby his style and personality find there expression in the context of the gravity of the message he is called to proclaim - "whoever speaks, as one who speaks the oracles of God".
Preacher: Liberate yourself from the prison of impersonation; your style will not give you greatness. Let the amazing reality that you are a herald for the One, True and Eternal God, so saturate your person that you speak as one who speaks the oracles of God. Let the deep and divinely devastating charge of 2 Timothy 4:1, loose your tongue and embolden your stand. Don't settle for sharing, or discussing, or 'putting it out there' - if you have been appointed to preach - then brother - Preach the Word!