Preaching can be deceptive. It can seem all so normal to those of us who attend church services every weekends. It’s easy to be distracted by the personality of the preacher and the regularity of the practice, and neglect what remarkable things God stands ready to accomplish through such an otherwise unimpressive act.
He changes the world with words.
But as familiar as we in the church can be with preaching, it makes for an utterly unique half hour for outsiders steeped in the modern world. Gone is the day of oration and listening to extended monologues with rapt attention. TED talks, academic lectures, State-of-the-Union speeches, and stand-up comedy are almost all our society knows of public speech today. And these are vastly different than preaching.
In the church, preaching is that holy half hour each week when the assembly of the redeemed closes her collective mouth, opens her ear and heart, and listens to the uninterrupted voice of her Husband, through his appointed mouthpiece, fallible though the messenger be. This weekend, see if you can rise above your familiarity with your regular preacher, and be ready to expect some amazing things when Christ’s herald steps to the pulpit and is faithful to his word, laying out the kindling for the fire of his Spirit.
The Power of the Preached Word
When we put ourselves under the preaching of God’s word, it is one of the precious few moments in modern life when we button the lip, resist the temptation to respond right away, and focus our energy and attention on hearing with faith.
There is something going on in Christian preaching, in the context of corporate worship, that is not the same as your private reading and study of the Bible. Here, as Richard Foster says, “things occur that could never occur alone,” and according to Don Whitney, we come upon “some graces and blessings that God gives only in ‘meeting together’ with other believers.”
Private devotions can’t replace corporate worship. No other experience in the Christian life compares to the sacramental power of the preached word. It is that moment when we hear, through the faithful preaching of a human voice, Jesus’s own voice applied to our one local assembled body.
As you make your way to corporate worship this weekend, or consider whether it’s really worth the effort to be there, here are five specific graces, among many more, of sitting with faith under the faithful preaching of God’s word.
1. To Forget Ourselves
One of the great blessings of good preaching is that it helps us in the life-giving activity of self-forgetfulness. Faithful preaching will expose our sin, and challenge us to change, but it does so in the verses, while the chorus calls us away from self to the Savior.
It is a glorious thing for our souls to be freed from our regular preoccupation with me, even if for only a few moments at the sermon’s climax, as we’re captivated by Christ.