Eight Facets of Faithful Preaching
Faithfulness is multifaceted; there is much more to it than simply capturing the dominant thrust of the passage we are expounding, essential as that is. Faithful servants of God’s Word prove themselves to be faithful stewards of it when they:
1. Trust God. Those who speak for God are justified to expect him to speak through them when they are faithful servants and stewards of his Word. The preached Word is powerful for the purposes for which God gave it. Those who speak for God need not, and therefore must not, go beyond what is written. Scripture is sufficient (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Peter 1:3).
2. Speak as those assigned, equipped, and empowered to do so. God selects, authorizes, equips, deploys, accompanies, and empowers those who speak for him. Those who speak for God look to him for all they need to fulfill their calling and are accountable to him for what they say in his name.
3. Speak from the Bible in ways that reflect the Bible’s composition as a literary collection. Because all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable, to faithfully preach it all, preachers need strategies that are consistent with the nature and purpose of all its parts.
4. Listen to God before they attempt to speak for God, discerning what he is saying. Those who speak for God must first listen to him (Isa. 50:4–11).
5. Understand those to whom God has called them to speak. Because God speaks intelligibly through people to people, messages from him must be intelligible to those to whom we speak (1 Cor. 14:1–12).
6. Respect and reflect the clarity and orderliness of Scripture while discerning the way people hear. What God says in Scripture is sufficiently clear so that those who speak for him can make it clear to those to whom they speak on God’s behalf (Deut. 29:9; 2 Cor. 1:13; Eph. 3:9). Because God adapts his speech to achieve his purposes, we must organize what we say to reflect his mind and his desire to be heard.
7. Respect and reflect the ways that Scripture communicates in stories, propositions, and images. Because God speaks in stories and word pictures, as well as propositions, commands, and warnings, faithfulness to his Word requires that we reflect its nature when we respeak it.
8. Take seriously their role as messengers who also embody the message they proclaim. Because God’s message to humanity is both verbal and incarnate, we cannot neglect how we embody the truth both in the pulpit and outside of it (Col. 1–2).
While there is no easy or automatic formula for success in preaching, I have become convinced that the servant of the Word who humbly attends to these eight facets of faithfulness is significantly more likely to let God’s voice be heard than one who does not. Each facet of faithfulness presents its own challenges or, as I describe them, bottlenecks preventing the flow of God’s Word to God’s people. The remainder of this book will be devoted to opening these bottlenecks to let the Word of God speak.