Article by Chopo Mwanza

I started school, and the course’s main focus is expository preaching in the context of the local church. The beauty about the course is that you get to sit under the teaching of different men with vast experience in preaching and pastoral ministry, but they also hold differing theological positions within evangelical Christianity. All this makes for a rich experience for the students and many unforgettable lessons that left me doing quite a bit of self-retrospection.  Here a few that I have been mulling over.

Study hard without data dumping

Someone once said, “A preacher who goes into the pulpit without preparation is a fool. A preacher who goes into the pulpit relying on his preparation is a bigger fool.” The apostle Paul admonishes his son Timothy to labor to the point of exhaustion in his study of God’s Word, so that he may handle it accurately. Study is a non-negotiable for the preacher! That said, preaching should not be reduced to data dumping. The pulpit is not the place for the preacher to bring out all his study tools and expose his knowledge (or lack thereof). The work of a preacher in preaching, after diligent study, is to deliver the truths of Scripture simply and logically. Throwing theological jargon and going on pointless mumblings are the preacher’s real temptation in sermon delivery.

Clarity, Clarity and more Clarity

The basic goal of communication is to deliver your message to the recipients in a manner that is simple and clear for them to understand. Preachers are no different in their task of preaching. Clarity is an essential part of a sermon. Therefore, the message must be conveyed in a language and with concepts the audience can understand. Another aspect of communicating with clarity is that there is a logical flow to the sermon. One reason preachers lack clarity is the problem of preaching to an imagined audience, instead of preaching to the audience in front of you. The gospel message is an important, urgent matter that we cannot afford to lack clarity in our preaching.

Preach doctrine while applying it to the people

There are preachers who claim they do not preach doctrine; they simply preach the Bible. While their intentions are admirable, their logic is self-contradictory. To preach the Bible is to teach doctrine; it is in this light that Paul urges Timothy to teach what is in keeping with sound doctrine. Biblical preaching will shape a congregation doctrinally. However, preaching doctrine does not mean lack of application. In fact biblical doctrine affects life style. And biblical preaching tells both the “what” and the “so what”. The first questions gives you truth (doctrine), and the second question gives you the implications of the truth in your life (application).  

Work on your holiness

This was the most convicting of the lessons. God uses instruments that honor and please him in their lives. The most important work a preacher can do is focus on being holy and fighting sin in his life. That means commitment to the study of God’s Word, prayer and meaningful fellowship with the brethren. This holiness will then be seen in relationships, attitude towards others and ministry. A holy minister is not preoccupied with his reputation or success but on being faithful in the task his master has called him to. As a result, such a minister is not worried about the empty spaces in the pew but instead focuses on the ones that are filled up.

Soak your preaching in prayer

After all has been said and done, preaching is not about the mechanics, study and styles though all those are important. A man might have all those nailed down and still not bear fruit in his preaching because his is not enabled by the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that preaching must be soaked in prayer if it is to be effective. Unless the Lord works in the hearts of men, the preacher becomes a mere orator. Prayer is an act of dependence of the work and power of God in changing lives, including your own as a preacher.

As a I pondered on these and many other lessons, I could not help but reflect on the words of Walter Kaiser when he says:

“Regardless of what new directives and emphases are periodically offered, that which is needed above everything else to make the church more viable, authentic and effective, is a new declaration of the scriptures with a new purpose, passion and power.”[1]

[1] Walter C. Kaiser. Towards an Exegetical Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981, (p. 242.)