The Importance of Theology in Preaching

The preacher who fails to understand the significance of the theology of Scripture (especially as it regards the nature, function, and purpose of the church) will easily fall prey to the seeker-sensitive or church-growth mentality. The preacher then ceases to go to the Lord for his messages, but to the felt needs of his congregation or the ministry standards set by his local church leadership or denomination or the ministry objectives set by the latest church growth guru who in turn has borrowed his objectives from the most profitable Fortune 500 companies. When this happens, they now preach without authority, or at the least, without the Lord’s authority, and they are no longer spokesmen for the Lord, because the Lord demands that his spokesmen proclaim his message and not their own.

In such churches the Bible is subjected to strained interpretations in order to fit into the latest marketing schemes foisted upon the church. Biblical soundness yields to pragmatic results. Once a new method produces results, church growth strategists declare it to be a church growth principle.[1]

These factors contribute to the current glut of bad preaching so prevalent in our churches today. By “bad preaching” this writer does not mean that the preaching is boring. In fact, much of it is enjoyable, even entertaining, but it is not good preaching in that it does not fulfill the Scriptural mandate concerning preaching.

There are numerous examples of this bad preaching and their prevalence depends on various circumstances such as the denominational distinctives of the preacher or church, the education level of the preacher (although this can sometimes be very misleading, in either direction), the mission and vision of the church or preacher, and the preacher’s own view of his theological role.

In most conservative denominations, one does not attend church for long without being exposed to different preaching styles. While styles of preaching may vary because the personalities of preachers vary, the content of sermons should remain close to the text of Scripture and should relate in some way to the person and work of Christ. This does not mean that the preacher only preaches Christological texts or preaches the lecture notes from his seminary theology classes. Many texts do not explicitly deal with Christ, especially in the Old Testament, and the preacher must consider this in his preparation. This is often the core problem: the right kind of preaching takes time and is hard work. This is often too much for those who have bought into the business mentality of the Church Growth Movement. They view themselves as executives rather than “heralds of the Word of Life.”

[1] Phil A. Newton, “The Pastor and Church Growth,” in Reforming Pastoral Ministry, ed. John H. Armstrong, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001), 265. Emphasis in original.

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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