For an upcoming course, one of my assignments is to summarize my philosophy of preaching in less than two pages. I was to write it as if addressing another pastor. Here's my attempt.
Philosophy of Preaching
The preaching of the Word is an ordinance of God for the gathering and perfecting of the saints. Faithful preaching is marked by the following characteristics.
Prayerful Preaching. Preaching is spiritual labor. You ought to prepare and preach in reliance upon the Spirit. Every sermon should be bathed in prayer.
Studied Preaching. “Preaching requires much study, meditation, and prayer, and ministers should prepare their sermons with care, and not indulge themselves in loose, extemporary harangues, nor serve God with that which costs them naught.” Pastors should also keep their studies in the study. Hearers do not need to hear every detail about the pastor’s exegetical labors. When baking bread, the ingredients and cooking are done in the kitchen (the pastor’s study); the sermon should be presented as the baked bread served fresh to the people of God.
Consecutive Expository Preaching. By consecutive I mean systematically working through a book of the Bible verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter. This should be the ordinary method of preaching because over time it sets before the people the whole counsel of God. It sets forth God’s character and the person and work of Christ in all of Scripture. It forces you to deal with the hard parts of the Bible. It gives a healthy variety to preaching. It sets your preaching schedule. It keeps you off your hobby horses.
By expository I mean “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Preach the Bible from the Bible. What is preached should be drawn from a specific text. Therefore the sermon should ordinarily be tethered to a specific text of Scripture. The goal is to expound that pericope and apply it to the hearts and lives of hearers.
God-centered Preaching. Major on the greatness and majesty of God. Preach what has been called a “big-God theology.” Common to preaching today is an emphasis on man and man’s problems. We need to hear more about God and see ourselves and our problems in light of who he is.
Christ-filled Preaching. The person and work of Christ is the substance and goal of Scripture. Every sermon should point and lead to, set forth and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ.
Didactic Preaching. Preaching and teaching are not synonyms. But faithful preaching includes instruction. Teach people the doctrines of the Christian faith. The need for sound teaching is urgent in our time. Positively to equip the saints with the truth; negatively to guard against false teaching within and without the church. People need to learn how to think Christianly, with a biblical worldview.
Plain Preaching. Plain isn’t simplistic. Plain, clear preaching is not easy to achieve, but it’s what people need. Aim to be understood. Don’t obsess over theological debates or fads. Don’t use the pulpit to show off your learning. Focus on the fundamentals of the faith. Devote yourself to clarity. Proclaim the gospel in language that can be understood by all. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use theological terms (i.e., justification, sanctification, union with Christ, etc), but strive to ensure the people understand what those words mean.
Expectant Preaching. Believe that preaching is a God-ordained means of grace. Trust that the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. Speak with the conviction that by the power of the Spirit the gospel saves and transforms lives.
Experiential and Transformational Preaching. The last course I took in the DMin program was taught by Dr. Joel Beeke. He argued that the greatest weakness in Reformed preaching today is a lack of experiential preaching. Experiential preaching aims to apply biblical truth to all of the Christian life and experience as well as the unbeliever’s life and experience. The goal of experiential preaching is the conformity of believers in all of life to Jesus Christ. Experiential preaching is drawing back the arrow (God’s word) and aiming for the heart. It’s applicatory preaching — bringing home the truth of God to the lives of the people of God. Experiential preaching is motivated by the conviction that doctrine is for life. It aims for authentic Christianity lived out through the saving power of the Spirit, not a false Christianity in mere religious forms and empty words.
By transformational, I mean Spirit-wrought change worked through the ministry of the word, evidenced in us through lives of faith and repentance, mortification and vivification. God intends to conform us to Jesus, and a chief way he accomplishes that purpose is the Word rightly preached, faithfully heard, diligently applied and worked out.
Evangelistic Preaching. Salvation is the work of God, and he is pleased to use preaching to save sinners to the praise of his glorious grace. Preach for the conversion of men and women, boys and girls. Call people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Set forth and offer Christ freely to all.
Grave Preaching. There ought to be a weightiness to preaching. Matters of life and death, eternal blessing and eternal damnation are before the congregation. Preach earnestly and urgently. When John Bunyan depicted the minister in The Pilgrim’s Progress,
Christian saw a picture of a very grave person hanging on the wall. This is what the man in the picture looked like: he had eyes lifted up to Heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth upon his lips, the world behind his back. He stood as if pleading with men, and a crown of gold hung upon his head.
Supported Preaching. Your life, in full reliance upon the Spirit of Christ, ought to commend what you preach. In public and private, the preacher’s conduct should be consistent with his preaching. This includes modeling repentance in the home and church.
How should this philosophy of preaching impact pastoral ministry? Preaching must be a priority. You cannot be a faithful minister without faithfully ministering the Word. Other necessary pastoral responsibilities and unrealistic expectations placed on the pastor should not distract from this great task. You must be committed to feeding the flock (John 21:15). Faithful preaching leads the flock each Lord’s Day to the green pastures of God’s Word where the sheep are fed with the life-giving Word of God. It is God’s Word that gives life to, sustains, and nourishes the flock of God.