Why Do We Preach?
In his book, Vertical Church James MacDonald says:
…worship…is eternal while preaching is temporal. On earth even the best of preachers is just inciting worship as a participant, but in heaven the only preaching will be God inviting our worship as recipient. We preach so that worship will increase, not the reverse…We don’t worship so that preaching will be more impactful for us; we preach so that worship will be more impactful for God.
This hit the nail on the head for something I always thought must/should/could be true, but was too nervous to admit because of the church culture we typically have as evangelicals. After all, I’m the “worship” guy, so by wanting to emphasize worship, I’m just tooting my own horn (no pun intended, but still allowed). For years, we have heard and been taught that the “worship” part of the service is just to set up the message. Unfortunately, this greatly reduces the importance of the “worship” time and gives people an excuse to come in late, or leave early – as long as you get to hear the sermon, that’s what church is for, right?
First, let me say that what James is and is not saying is that preaching will make us want to sing more/better/louder. In one way, yes, our congregational worship can and should increase because of the preaching of God’s Word. We just heard the Words of the God of the Universe, so of course we should desire to lift our voices and bow our knees as a church body. At Trinity, we like to move around where the music and the message occurs in the service, and this is one of the reasons. We want the preaching of the Word to inform our congregational worship. The other reason is to emphasize that it’s all worship.
Earlier, I wrote the word worship in quotes when talking about the musical part of the service. This is because when believers gather on Sunday mornings, the entire event is supposed to be worship. Greeting and fellowship (even the dreaded hand-shake time), reading of Scripture, singing of songs, prayers and confessions, sermons, and benedictions – all of it is one act of corporate worship! There should be no distinction between these parts of the service in that regard. Every thing has a purpose, and ultimately, it is to point us to God and for His glory.
That is why we preach. So that when we hear the Word of God our hearts and minds are stirred with wonder for who He is and ALL of our worship – in church and most certainly our life worship – will increase. Preaching is not so you can learn a few new cool facts about God, or so you will be “fed”, or even that your behavior will change (although those things will probably happen), it’s ultimately so that you will be more in love with God.
For a time, I was apprehensive about getting a seminary education because I have heard stories about and witnessed people who become arrogant with their knowledge about God, and look down on those who don’t know as much. Perhaps you’ve heard the joke that seminary is really just “cemetery.” It’s sad, but it is sometimes true. However, I have been taking a seminary systematic theology course lately, and the exact opposite has been happening for me. The more I learn about God, the more I am amazed by Him and the more my worship has increased. Hopefully, God will continue to humble me in this endeavor instead of my prideful flesh taking over.
May that be true for us all. Let us listen and be in awe of the Word of God, not for our sakes and our knowledge, but that we would bring God more glory in our corporate gatherings and with our daily lives.