Roger Carswell is a travelling evangelist and author. He leads evangelistic church and university missions as well as speaking at Christian conferences. He has written eleven books including ‘And some evangelists’ and ‘Where is God in a messed up world?’, and publishes numerous gospel tracts and booklets. He is married to Dot, has four children and lives in Leeds.
Paul was determined to know nothing among the people except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is the cross of Christ which is to be the theme of our message; from it derive all the blessings which God longs to give to men and women. Preaching is not about telling stories or jokes, though they may be used. John Stott said, “To preach is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and God’s people obey Him.” Preaching is explaining the word of God to today’s hearers. ‘Truth through personality’ is how Phillips Brooks defined it. I describe my preaching as evangelistic exposition; but all must be preaching God’s word with clarity, sincerity (faithfulness in life as well as ministry) and unction, looking for God to be glorified, and people to be saved.
In Jeremiah 27 we read of the prophet preaching to the people, to the king and then to the priests. A different approach is needed for each. Jesus used parables, metaphors, similes, questions, even hyperbole to proclaim truth.
We need courage to expose the folly of today’s society. Let us ask questions (Jesus asked a total of 168) to get people thinking about life, the Lord, and eternity. Then let us proclaim the good news. In fact, it is hardly good news unless it is told. Let us preach it so that people understand what we are saying and they see Jesus Christ crucified. (Galatians 3:1-3).
But being fearless does not mean being angry. We are to be kind for we do not know what battles people are fighting. The listener is not our enemy: they are as we once were, and we want them to be as we are. DL Moody is said to have ‘loved people into the kingdom.’ John Wesley often simply recorded, after a day of preaching, that he ‘gave them Christ. Being winsome is an absolutely essential ingredient of gospel preaching.
Martin Luther gave vital instruction to all preachers: ‘When I preach I regard neither doctors nor magistrates, of whom I have above forty in my congregation; I have all my eyes on the servant maids and on the children. And if the learned men are not well pleased with what they hear, the door is open.’
4. Filled with Holy Spirit fire
It is hard to radiate fire, if a sermon is read from a script. (I know of Jonathan Edward’s famous sermon, but he is definitely a one-off!) May the Lord deliver us from plain sermon delivery! Preachers are not lecturers. I can’t imagine listeners to ‘read-out-loud’ sermons trembling at the power of the word. Notes may be necessary for the new preacher, a new sermon or momentary lapse, but reading word for word kills good communication and passion. Preachers are more than teachers; for we know that straightforward teaching can be cerebral and dry. Emotion in preaching is not to be acted … nor avoided! We need the Holy Spirit to put live coals on our lips.
Martyn Lloyd Jones famously said that preaching is ‘Logic on fire,’ but one without the other is either dull or disastrous. The purpose of our preaching is not only to educate and inform but to see people repenting, believing and being transformed by the power of God. Ours is not simply to fill the pulpit or the preaching programme, but to point the unconverted to Jesus.
John Bunyan said, “I preached what I did feel, what I smartingly did feel.’ To be like that, we need preachers who have a hunger for God, an appetite for the word, a heart filled with the Holy Spirit, a passion for the lost, and a fervour that burns within so that we have to declare what we know. I pray to be such a person, and I pray for thousands more too.