When I say that pastors should stop preaching, it might be helpful to understand what I am talking about. We all need to be “on the same page” about what exactly preaching is.
What is Preaching?
Everybody thinks they know what preaching is. Even people who don’t go to church know what it is. Most believe that preaching is when a person stands in front of a group of people and speaks to them about the Bible. Most often the speaking is performed inside a church building, from a stage, and behind a pulpit. The preaching lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour, and is delivered in speech format—one person talks while the rest listen.
Would you add or subtract anything from this definition? It is a common understanding of preaching.
So if everyone agrees on the definition of preaching, why do we need to define it? Because the Bible does not agree. When the terms for preaching are studied within their cultural context, a much different picture emerges.
The Bible on Preaching
In future posts, we will look at several of the key passages about preaching, but by way of introduction to those, look at this definition of preaching from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament:
Kērussein [to preach] does not mean the delivery of a learned and edifying or hortatory discourse in well-chosen words and a pleasant voice. It is the declaration of an event. Its true sense is “to proclaim” (III:683-718).
I know this basic definition may not help very much understand what preaching is, but in this article, the author goes into great detail showing how our modern understanding of “preaching” is very weak compared to the full-orbed thinking about preaching and proclamation in the days of Jesus.
He shows that the preaching of Jesus and the Apostles was the proclamation that the Kingdom of God has arrived. Their “preaching” was not educational, seeking to impart an ever-growing knowledge of the Scriptures upon the hearers, but was closer to the task of a herald who travelled throughout the land, declaring that changes were coming from the king, and what these changes meant for the people of the kingdom.
Preaching was this declaration, this proclamation, that the Kingdom of God had arrived.
According to the author, the preaching of Jesus “did not expound the Scripture like the rabbis. He did not tell people what they must do. His teaching was proclamation. He declared what God was doing among them today” (III:713).
To Explain the Bible, Teach It!
Does this mean there is no place for detailed explanation of the Scriptures? To the contrary, there is a place for such explanation, but in the Bible, this practice is not called “preaching” but rather “teaching.” Friedrich explains the differences:
Teaching is usually in the synagogue, whereas proclamation takes place anywhere in the open. Different hearers are present. Teaching is the exposition of Scripture in synagogue worship; it is for the righteous with a view to increasing their knowledge. Preaching is the herald’s cry ringing out in the streets and villages in houses. The herald goes to all, to publicans and sinners; he attracts the attention of those who are without and who do not attend the gatherings of the righteous (III:713).
We will look at this distinction between preaching and teaching in the ministry of Jesus tomorrow, but for now, what do you think? Do you somewhat see where I am headed when I think that pastors should stop preaching in the church services? If the audience is mostly believers, what they should be doing is teaching, not preaching. But even then, teaching in Scripture has it’s own unique set of characteristics which are not seen in most churches today.