People settle at different churches for different reasons. Sometimes, they like the people. Sometimes they like the worship and music. Sometimes they like the liturgy, and other times they go for the preaching. More often than not, churches will be strong in two of the following areas: fellowship, preaching/teaching, discipleship, mercy, worship. This is often due to the gifting and passion of the pastor, though it doesn’t necessarily have to be (a church could be strong in mercy, in spite of a non-mercy oriented pastor, provided he delegated well).
While preaching seems like the most “spiritual” reason to join a church, and it can be one of the two main strengths of the church, I think there can also be a danger to good preaching. Keep in mind, I’m a preacher-at least once a month-and already have a high view of the preached word. And I do what I can to improve as a preacher through reading, listening to myself/others, hearing lectures, etc…
Let me explain what I mean by “danger.” A good thing (preaching) can become the main thing (an idol) where all hope is placed and other responsibilities neglected. For instance, if I’m all “psyched” up to hear the gospel preached, I can easily “check out” for the entirety of worship. All of the music is supposed to get me ready for the preaching, right?
Wrong, singing is just as much worship. But when good preaching is my idol, I may not pay attention to the words sung, or the confession of sin, hearing the assurance of grace, or even to the sacrament of baptism or the Lord’s Supper.
When the worship service is over, I may simply go on cruise control for a week till I hear the good preaching again. I may rely on the good preaching to simply bring people, and neglect the call to love my neighbor and invite him/her MYSELF. I could also neglect the pursuit of deep fellowship. If my idol is good preaching, then I may ignore discipleship throughout the week like a small group bible study or the need for counseling or mercy. Good preaching will take care of it…
I may even walk away saying, “That was a bad sermon,” without the thought of, “Did it point me to what Jesus has done/is doing/will do?”
In some cases where there is good preaching, the church can begin to mistake the preacher of the word for the Living Word Jesus. And so the pastor becomes like a 4th member of the Trinity.
So is the answer, to “throw a game” as a preacher so people don’t rely upon YOU? This post is already getting too long. I’ll deal with that tomorrow.