THE INSANTIY OF PREACHING
It is often repeated that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.
For instance, we can imagine Thomas Edison and his team laboring day and night to find just the right filament for the light bulb. Picture Edison using the same element under the same conditions over and over again, each time anticipating the desired payoff. After several repeated attempts with no adjustments, we might be forgiven for thinking him a bit off in the head. Thankfully that’s not how he built the light bulb. As each element was tried and found wanting, it was set aside for another until he found the perfect match of filament and conditions.
There are always Christian practitioners who want the church to go the way of Edison when it comes to starting, maintaining and growing churches.
§ They point out how preaching doesn’t seem to work.
o It has been tried and found wanting, so we should move on to something else that might work better.
o Every generation has their reformers who aren’t happy with the results the Spirit is giving and want to drum up better ones.
o One “church-planting movement” founder compares preaching to regurgitated food chewed up by one and placed mushy and partially-digested into the mouth of others. Real appetizing.
§ He thinks a far better formula for church success is for a group of three to read the Bible on their own firsthand and leave the rest to the Spirit. This way, there’s no preacher standing in the way of growth. In fact, preachers are blamed for stunting rather than fostering church growth, causing laziness in the listeners.
Other experts agree with this expert that preaching is an antiquated, western, intellectually elite form of information-transfer inherited from Greek philosophers rather than the Bible.
ü It is certainly not a Jewish enough form of disciple-making in their eyes. And it isn’t organic enough.
ü They remind us that Jesus invested his life with his disciples, and converts just sort of sprang up out of nowhere. However, they forget to mention all the times that Jesus preached to the disciples and crowds of thousands.
I actually entertained these expert opinions for awhile out of a pure desire to see Christ glorified. But something always stood in the way of me selling out to the new generation of experts; namely, the Bible. Paul, in particular, just kept interrupting the experts.
- Is the Bible silent on this subject? Are we left to wonder God’s view of preaching?
- Are we free to tinker with the church or the preaching of the church like Edison fiddling around with different filaments?
Consider one popular text that is so clear in its composition, so comprehensive in its perspective, and so impossible to refute that it devastates any attempt to deny the necessity of preaching. If there were no other texts in Scripture concerning preaching, this one text could stand alone as a once-for-all testimony to its validity.
- “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths“ (2 Timothy 4:1-4).
There is a principle command in this whole paragraph: preach the word.
Ø Everything else written is modifying that command.
Ø Everything written before the command is building up to it, showing the seriousness of the matter.
Ø And everything following the command is flowing from it, showing how it is to be done and why.
Ø Paul knew about those who would come after him, challenging the veracity of simple preaching. He doesn’t need contemporary church specialists to tell him of the difficulty of the mission and how it doesn’t seem to be working.
Why does Paul command the preaching of the word?
Ø The little word “for” tells us. Preach the word FOR or BECAUSE the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but will mount up teachers to suit their own desires and wander off into myths.
Why preach the word?
Ø Because people won’t listen. Think about this. Really think about it. Paul is predicting precisely what the modern church experts are screaming. People don’t like preaching and preaching won’t work.
God is not up in Heaven, wringing his hands and rubbing his head, saying,
Ø “Oh my, Paul. Preaching isn’t working. We need a plan B, on the double. Maybe groups of three meeting in McDonald’s will complete the mission. Or better yet, groups of ten disgruntled church members meeting in their living rooms and calling it organic. Or maybe we could feed more poor people or open a coffee house and art studio. Paul, do you think my rebel creation will come to me through coffee? Could it be that simple? Could that be the hidden secret I’ve missed since I created Adam?”