You’re Not Called to Preach

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Look at the methods of the master communicator, Jesus.

The young man was puzzled. He heard me and other panel members cite the inherent limitations of regular lectures and sermons. After we encouraged the audience to insert some experiential elements into their teaching, he raised his hand.

“But what about the biblical mandate to preach?” he asked.

Now I was puzzled.

First, I wondered how his concept of preaching confined itself to mere lecture. In order for preaching to be preaching, must it exclude everything that’s not one guy lecturing at a microphone?

Then I wondered about his assertion of “the mandate.” I told the audience that I didn’t conclude that “the mandate” of scripture was to preach.

Yes, Jesus instructed his disciples to go out and preach. But when I think of a “mandate,” I think a little bigger. I’d consider scripture’s mandate to be something big, such as “make disciples,” or “help bring people into a growing relationship with Jesus,” or accomplish Jesus’ Great Commandments: love God, love people.

Those are mandates with significant outcomes. And, as faithful followers of Christ, we need to find effective ways to pursue those mandates. That may include some preaching. But, ultimately, we’re not called to preach. We’re called to reach.

If we want to be effective at following the real mandates, and to be more successful at reaching people, at communicating, we would do well to look at the methods of the master communicator, Jesus.

Complete the Communication.

First, Jesus modeled a true understanding of communication. He knew that communication is not merely sending information.

In order for communication to happen, people need to receive and be transformed by the message. It’s Jesus’ Parable of the Sower.

I often hear preachers defend the flat lecture method as pure in its own right, armored with theological education, marinated in exhaustive sermon prep, and festooned with biblical truth. All of that is good, but if it doesn’t complete the communication process, it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Thom Schultz Thom Schultz is an eclectic author and the founder of Group Publishing and Lifetree Café. Holy Soup offers innovative approaches to ministry, and challenges the status quo of today’s church.

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  • Chris O’Dell

    Jesus followed up (or preceded) his teaching with a demonstration of power.

  • Guest

    If only Edwards, Whitefield, and Spurgeon would have been innovators to “communicate” the scriptures they might have been able to reach people. Ha ! Do they just let anyone write this stuff? A lot of it sounds like a supplement for poor sermon prep.

  • Joseph Boadu

    Sounds good but what about Mark 16:15 “And He said to them. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”? Is this not a mandate to preach?

    • Dave Irwin

      Yes, it is indeed a mandate to preach.

      And Peter confirms that mandate given in Mark 16:15 by citing it in Acts 10:42:
      “And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to solemnly testify that it is He [Jesus] who has been appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead.”

      So yes, we have a mandate and a command from Jesus Himself to preach.

  • audie

    Jesus-style teaching? Correct me if I’m wrong, but looking at the Gospels, I see that very often, the people didn’t understand and didn’t connect with what Jesus was saying. He drove off a lot of people by talking about eating His body and drinking His blood. Even His disciples struggled to understand what He was saying, and very often didn’t. Plus, there were the times He plainly stated He spoke in parables, not so that the people would understand Him, but so that they wouldn’t.
    Plus, in the end, they killed Him.

    • juliemango

      I think Jesus purpose was to instill faith in his followers. Not understanding. Thus the complication in his”simple” message.

    • juliemango

      Amen Audie.

  • Michael A Sommerfeld

    Not to split hairs but communication is the transfer of facts, what is being promoted here is manipulation. We are encouraged to manipulate people to be transformed into what we want. That’s not necessarily bad, if what we want to transform them to is not bad. But it is the essence of what is being proposed. I think we need to be clear on this. It really puts the pressure on the speaker to be under God’s control. Otherwise we can end up transforming in the same way Hitler transformed Germany. All our audience needs to be aware we are trying to transform them and they need to judge whether or not they want to be transformed in the way we propose.

  • Andrew

    My dear brother!

    Please don’t throw away the biblical mandate to preach the Gospel to every creature, just because we do it without complete dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit or just because we preach a false gospel that has no power to save. God will not bless the fruit of our flesh or when we change His Gospel to a false, truncated, different “gospel.”

    It is indeed, the preaching of the Gospel, that people are saved from God’s wrath, through repentance and faith in Jesus. That is how a disciple is made. We cannot “disciple” an unregenerate, lost person. His heart does not love God, nor desire to follow Him. When we preach the Gospel, the Holy Spirit does a work of regeneration on men’s heart to repent and believe. From there, we continue to teach them to observe everything that God has commanded us to be and do, according to His Word. That is the mandate & grace that God has given His saints.

  • Kris

    Instead of an article about the Biblical mandate to preach, this reads more as a “why my style of doing it is better than yours.” It’s a point which is proven toward the end when we are given a personal example of how the writer himself prefers the example to be set.

    There are lots of contexts for preaching the Gospel.

  • herbie

    I love the comments here. Creativity in preaching takes work. It’s MUCH easier to spiritualize the way you’ve always done it and blame the people for not getting it. I applaud the author for working to make his preaching excellent. And I admonish the regular commenters to set aside laziness and hyper-spirituality and do a better job.

  • Eddie

    Preaching is a tool – one of the tools to make disciples. Adult and child education tells us that people learn in different ways. Our call is to make disciples and craft a people of God. Our call is not to preach as an end in itself.