By Dan Hyun
How prominent should preaching be in the life of a church?
While some would contend preaching was never intended to be the central aspect in a church’s rhythms of worship, others maintain a biblically-faithful understanding of the gathered church necessitates a high value in the preaching of God’s Word.
Ironically, both ends on this spectrum may point to the issues with preaching that reveal larger problems in the Church, at least in North America. In fact, we can glean wisdom from both philosophies.
It’s problematic if preaching is the only or primary means of discipleship in a church. That runs the risk of elevating the personality of one individual at the expense of church member’s growth.
However, with the right intention and appropriate execution, preaching can and should play a significant role in the disciple-making efforts of the gathered community of God’s people.
Here are two ways preaching should serve as discipleship:
1. Modeling how to study the Bible.
One thing I impress upon younger pastors is recognizing the desire to be impressive as a preacher. There’s a natural satisfaction of developing sermon thoughts that are unique and leave the church saying, “Wow, the preacher is amazing!”
It’s appropriate to spend time in the study of the Word and resources while marinating that preparation in communion with the Spirit and asking for revelations of deep insight.
That can be a very good thing to share and bless the church!
At the same time, though it might feel good to be recognized as an impressive preacher, one of the most helpful ways the pulpit can be used is to show our people how we studied the biblical text to develop our sermon points.
A sermon should be more than a running Bible commentary, yet there’s value in walking people through how you study and exegete the passage in observation, interpretation, and application.
Many in our churches feel intimidated by the Bible. Truthfully, there’s a lot in the Bible that’s confusing and reminds us why the scriptures weren’t intended to be approached only from a personal study mentality.
Groups are conducive to training people how to unpack the wonderful mysteries of the Bible. Preaching that’s done in conjunction with the work of the larger community can be an effective means of discipling people in a love for God’s Word.
Preaching as discipleship moves people from listening to insights in the sermon and saying, “I could never do that,” to, “I totally see how we got that from the Bible!”
In an increasingly biblically illiterate culture, your preaching can help unlock your people’s passion for discovering for themselves the treasures waiting to be mined in Scripture.
2. Establishing the culture of the community.
Discipleship is about equipping people with certain skills. I’d suggest, though, that discipleship is more than just teaching people how to do things. It’s also about why we do things. And preaching can be a strategic means of helping cultivate the culture of the church.
For example, one value in our church is leadership development, including developing pastors and preachers. As part of these efforts, we intentionally put younger preachers in the pulpit.
The reality is that this can be challenging for a church that has expectations of a strong preaching ministry. It can also feel like a hurdle for outreach when preaching can be a consumeristic means of drawing people in.
Yet, intentional explaining to the church why we do this can make all the difference. If the primary preacher in the church introduces a young preacher and shares why they’re up there, it’s training people to reframe their understanding of the purpose of the church.
At our church, I hope people receive deeply from God every time they hear a sermon. However, I also remind folks we don’t just listen to sermons to receive good information or hot takes.
Content is important, but there’s also great value in the practice of regularly sitting under the preaching of a church, even if it doesn’t feel like revival is happening in one’s soul during every sermon.
God is honored as we faithfully attend to Him and others in the church. He’s working in our souls even if we can’t always feel him.
The key is these values of our church culture need to be continually communicated, and these can be intentionally tied into sermons.
Preaching is an effective means of unifying a diverse group of people around some of the common values you want to impress in your community.
It usually doesn’t occur in an instant, but culture expressed regularly will become normal over time.
DAN HYUN (@villagedanhyun) is the husband to Judie, father of two precious girls, and lead pastor of The Village Church and Send City Missionary for Baltimore, Maryland.