The best advice I’ve ever received came from an elderly preacher who reminded me that my job as a preacher is not just to preach the Bible, but to preach the Bible to people.
The church father Tertullian asked the question:
“What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem?”Tertullian, “Prescription against Heretics,” trans. Peter Holmes, in Ante- Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 3:249. Accessed in Jay Green, An Invitation to Academic Studies, pg. 8.
In other words, what hath the intellectual academy have anything to do with the spiritual realm? We must preach the Scriptures to the minds and the culture in which we live.
A quote widely attributed to Martin Luther (1483-1546) puts the matter bluntly:
“Also it does not help that one of you would say: ‘I will gladly confess Christ and His Word on every detail, except that I may keep silent about one or two things which my tyrants may not tolerate, such as the form of the Sacraments and the like.’ For whoever denies Christ in one detail or word has denied the same Christ in that one detail who was denied in all the details, since there is only one Christ in all His words, taken together or individually.”[D. Martin Luther’s Werke : kritische Gesamtausgabe (Weimarer Ausgabe) : [3. Band] Briefwechsel, ed. (Weimar: H. BoÌˆhlaus Nachfolger, 1933), 81-82].
We preach with God as our ultimate audience in order to help equip the present disciples to be disciples who are stronger in their walk with Jesus, but also to help those disciples (including the pastor preaching) make more hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus. How would preachers accomplish this?
- Exalt Christ in every sermon because Christ is exalted in every text. This helps believers to be disciples of Jesus.
- Engage the text to strengthen believers in the sufficiency of Christ and His Word. This helps pastors make disciples in the process of preaching.
- Equip others to study the text by modeling how you’ve studied the text to construct your sermon. This is multiplying disciples as we invest in God’s people through this modeling.
- Encourage God’s people to take what they’ve learned and invest in others. This is a great way to send disciples out with what they have learned as disciples to make and multiply more disciples.