≡ Menu

The challenge of preaching today…


I still believe in preaching, but there are its share of challenges.

Where the church has in many ways led western culture for most of the past millennia, during the past fifty years, the culture has leaped forward, lapping around the church; leaving it in the dust. Today the church is seen as the remnants of an archaic institution. The church did such a good job adapting to modern culture, with its rationalism, hierarchy, and structures that it has become irrelevant to the postmodern culture today.

In the modern preacher’s mind the surrounding culture is in complete and utter chaos. Today’s preacher often makes the tragic mistake of trying to answer questions that no one’s asking. This is a prime example of how broken the lines of communication are between the church and the culture. People no longer understand what the church is babbling, and the church has no idea how to communicate to a relative, subjective, pluralistic, and amoral society. All of these factors are no excuse for relinquish our mandate to preach the gospel.

Although it may seem like an uphill battle, in the mind of a missionary, this is a unique opportunity in history. Most of the emerging literature today attempts to expand the definition of what it means to ‘preach the gospel’, but if your gifting is to preach, then the church needs you to be the very best preacher that you can be. Preachers must take upon the mindset of missionaries in a foreign land where the culture we are engaging happens to be postmodern.

I still believe there is a place for biblical and relevant preaching in North America today and going forward… isn’t there?

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Jake January 15, 2007, 8:15 pm

    Is it possible that full time ministry provides too much opportunity for distance to build between pastor and society?

  • jason January 15, 2007, 10:55 pm

    I don’t think it’s full time ministry that creates this problem, Jake. If that was it then we’d see a lot more non-professional Christians reaching a lot more people. It seems like it is a heart/attitude issue.

  • internationalmentoringnetwork January 16, 2007, 10:21 am

    part of the problem is the concept if the “full time” ministry. every christ following person is in the full time ministry. another part of the problem is that “preaching” in the modern imagination requires the existence of an audience we call a “church”. This audience requires the act of “preaching”.

    i too believe in proclaming the gospel. but delete the “job” of lecturing to an existing captive audience and now go preach. in that world, i think that “persuasively communicating the gospel to unreached people” becomes a better way to speak of preaching.

    at this point, market forces come into play. how many unreached people would invest money or time to hear most preachers? not many. only those who’ve become convinced that sitting before a monlogue once a week is the way to practice their faith.

    in fact, two and one half decades ago, i shared with my brother an insight i had gained that i think shaped both his and my thinking. here it is: the job of the pastor is not “preaching”. the pastor’s job is guiding a community in “life transformation”. one of the tools in the pastor’s toolbox for life change is preaching. the pastor may or may not use this tool depending on his own facility with it and/or the circumstance. [HT to Walter Brueggemann from whose writings i gleaned this].

    good post and conversation here.

  • Parke January 16, 2007, 10:49 am

    Lon, you should take some time to flesh out what you’re talking about since there are so many pastors around here. I think I know what you mean. It’s not so much that they can’t relate. The human condition and the life of work hasn’t changed a whole lot over the last twenty five years since the pastor’s parents went to work. In my mind it’s just that we can become lazy if we’re not careful.

    When I get a chance to speak I try to see how I can give practical illustrations from the gaming guild some of our guys are involved in and the office life that so many of us know well, but I know I can do more.

  • martyschmidt January 16, 2007, 12:01 pm

    My thoughts come from the question of are we called to preach/teach/share/inspire – each of those have different definitions. Doug Pagitt has a book entitled Preaching Re-Imagined which takes a very different approach to a message on a Sunday. It is high conversation. One of the key words he throws around through out the book is Speaching. Speaching seems to be the very thing that isn’t working.
    I also think identifing the role of the pastor (I can see Lon working on this post now) is very key in this. Is the role of the pastor to be the expert in everything? 2 Timothy 2:1-2 instructs Timothy to appoint others who are capable of teaching.
    The church may be viewed as an arcaic institution because it still operates as one.
    One could easily find many things wrong but I hope to identify solutions in this.

  • Heather January 16, 2007, 1:48 pm

    I believe the more you focus on spiritual transformation, the result will be less contact with the world. I am sure there has to be a balance. Time is a great example of this. The more I am in the Word, worshipping or listening to podcast sermons, the less time I have to find out what is going on in the world. i am a news junkie so i still make time. However, compared to my “old life” I am not connecting with the world as I used to. therefore, in someways, there has to be a disconnection in order to be really “sold out” for Jesus.

    random comments:

    1. I am sick of preaching the homelitics style. Now, i have been a pastor and have a Bible college degree, but i find some people never find their communication syle. Thus, somethings can be really shallow.

    2. I am sick of people writing sermons based on thier own biases or prooftexting of scripture to make something fit. Topical preaching can get on my nerves after awhile.

    Just some thoughts…

  • Lon January 16, 2007, 5:20 pm

    Thanks for the very excellent comments all.

    Jake, absolutely. How often do you hear of Christians a couple years after conversion sharing about how they have no unbelieving friends anymore? How much more difficult must it be for pastors… which is why i’m committed to always be involved in ‘other’ organizations/groups.

    Jason.. you’re right it’s a heart issue across the board.

    Alex, i was surprised to learn a couple hundred years ago, merchants would HIRE revival preachers to proclaim the word and people in the hundreds and thousands would flock to hear them… and pick up some goods in the public square. How times have changed, eh?

    Parke, I know I can do more as well. I look back at some of my previous speaking engagements and it just depresses me.

    Marty, I haven’t read it yet, but i’ll be adding that to me read-soon shortlist. I think pastors ought to be so much more, but they’re often percieved and paid to do that one thing, that is often so ineffective for many. Maybe most of them just aren’t capable? or need to try a different set of tools?

    Heather. thanks for sharing… me too. I’m not connected/disconnected in all the right places either. Also interesting point about topical preaching… some people these days feel that’s the only thing that works with a postmodern audience…?

  • snakesanddoves January 19, 2007, 3:44 am

    The thing about focussing on spiritual transformation I disagree with, in the sense that as with sharpening a knife the spiritual transformation only happens when there are things, experiences, people to rub up against. John Wesley summed it up when he wrote that he knew of no holiness but social holiness. Paul famously wrote “Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Roms.12.1). I think a major problem with some of us (better than saying, ‘some people’) is that we are ‘of the world, but not in it’ if I can mangle another bit of scripture. We are “so ‘other-worldly’ that we are no earthly use”.

    The first tough thing about preaching in a postmodern context is knowing what preaching looks like in such a context. Demanding that all assent to a ‘truth’ which relies on our own take on scripture and isn’t demonstrated in a Godly life is bound to fail. Rooted, faith-led and costly discipleship is the best preaching I know of, alongside authentic spirit-filled accessible worship.

  • Lon January 19, 2007, 12:56 pm

    snakesanddoves thanks for joining the conversation!

    that’s a great quote by Wesley. You’re right, the ‘spiritual’ realm is manifested at its fullest in the real world. All of us need to rediscover how to connect with our current culture in a faithful way… the challenge is we’re all in unique contexts, but there is much we can all learn from one another…

Leave a Comment