by Mark Stinnett

After having preached full-time for only a few years, a good friend exclaimed excitedly at the end of a worship service, “Now, that is what I call preaching!” A visiting preacher spoke that day. My friend was not intentionally unkind, and I did not take it personally, but it did sting.

I know that I’m not a great orator, but I don’t hang my head low feeling sorry for myself. I have a job to do: Present the word of God. When I stand to teach or preach I am often hit with an overwhelming sense of responsibility. I wonder, “How can I possibly communicate a relevant message to all of these people?” In the audience, I see kids who are old enough to listen. There are adults of differing generations; people with different backgrounds, interests, circumstances, needs. “Is my sermon relevant?” Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:22). Yet, how can that be done this Sunday? To this audience with all their differences?

I don’t joke around when I preach. In my experience, the things that you find funny may puzzle or offend others. (Some folks love a dose of sarcasm; others disapprove strongly, others miss the humor entirely.)

What about a good story? All too often, whether humorous or enlightening or emotionally charged, stories overshadow the biblical truth they are meant to illustrate. So, what good is a story remembered when the truth is not?

There is a place and there is a time to share the riches of the original languages of the Bible -- the Greek and Hebrew. Yet, if I am simply blinding you with my brilliance, “I” block out God’s glory!

I was taught that a preacher should start a sermon with a joke or humorous story. I don’t believe that. (Check out Paul’s sermon in Athens in Acts 17.)

I was taught that every sermon should have three points and, at the end of the sermon, a poem. I don’t believe that either. (Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7?)

I’ve been told that the preaching style of the orators of the 1800s was real preaching. Then again, others say the fire-and-brimstone preaching of the 1940s and ’50s was real preaching. Then again, the preaching style of the preacher that you loved when you were growing up was real preaching. Real preaching?

Again, we are so different from one another that rarely does a single lesson pierce the heart of every person. Yet, I know that:

"The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

The power is in the word of God...not me.

God wanted His prophet Ezekiel to sound an alarm:

"Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me" (Ezekiel 3:17).

A preacher’s job is to relay God’s message. He has no control over the way people respond.

When the preacher Philip approached the man from Ethiopia asking if he understood the Scriptures, the man said, “How can I unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31). That is also my role: to guide through teaching.

I answered my question in the title years ago for myself. Based on the God-given task of a preacher, what is your role when God’s word is spoken?

Are you listening?

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