I remember my first sermon (sadly, I’m probably the only one who does!). As a new Christian with a lots of zeal, there was far more “heat” than “light.” Looking back I don’t think I would have been able to answer a simple but important question very well: What is preaching?
In the excellent book Preach the Word, which is a collection of essays in honor of R. Kent Hughes, D. A. Carson writes a most helpful chapter entitled “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit.” When I pulled this book from my shelf today I saw the note I wrote after reading it, Outstanding! Reread annually! After looking through it again, I want to share a section of it where Carson identifies five observations about what preaching is (from pages 176-177).
First, preaching is re-revelation. Preaching is more than the oral communication of information, no matter how biblical and divine that information may be. Rather, we should think in terms of what might be called “re-revelation.” . . . Preachers must bear this in mind. Their aim is more than to explain the Bible, however important that aim is. They want the proclamation of God’s Word to be a revelatory event, a moment when God discloses himself afresh, a time when the people of God know that they have met with the living God.
Second, preaching is expository. Exposition is simply the unpacking of what is there. If we expect God to re-reveal himself by his own words, then our expositions must reflect as faithfully as possible what God actually said when the words were given to us in Scripture.
Third, preaching is heraldic. As ambassadors, we are tasked with making known the stance and intentions of our Sovereign; we do not have the authority to tamper with his position.
Fourth, preaching is not an end in itself. The faithful preacher will care little what folk think of his oratorical skills; he will care a great deal about whether he has faithfully represented the Master and his message. This includes a passionate commitment to make the Word wound and heal, sing and sting.
Fifth, preaching is contextual. We must study our own people, the culture of the people to whom we minister. . . . To communicate effectively we must address the people of the time and place where God has placed us.
Again, the whole chapter is very helpful and the rest of the essays in this book are gravy for those who preach or like preaching.