There are two things I remember very well when attending my first homiletic (Preaching) class at the RTC. I was starting my third year of five year’s study, and our professor made the following comment, “Guys, before we start on this very important subject, if there is anything you would rather do than go into the ministry, please get up and go and do that now. No one at the RTC, and certainly not the faculty, will think any less of you.”
This was no ‘tongue-in-cheek’ comment, for my professor was absolutely serious and genuine about the offer he had just made. My professor knew from years of experience that preaching every week from God’s word, and sometimes twice, is never going to be easy. He knew that there were always going to be some people who are not completely satisfied with either your exposition of the text, your delivery, your application or perceived lack of it, your ability to be engaging, and sometimes even the exegetical choices you have made in the study.
A second thing my professor said by way of a question was, “Men, you who are married, what did your lovely wife cook you for tea last week Wednesday evening?” To our shame (I think) most of us married men could not be certain. We took some wild guesses, “Perhaps it was spuds, peas and carrots again, or was it something else?” Our professor then made the following comment, “Don’t think your congregations will remember your sermons any longer! However, just because you cannot remember what you had for tea a week ago, doesn’t mean it didn’t do you some good. That meal along with all your meals has sustained you physically. Similarly, sermons, even though we may not remember them a week later, when all taken together sustain us spiritually.”
It is a never ending dilemma for preachers to know what their focus should be in preaching. Someone sent me this article which was written about the famous preacher and lecturer, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and what he said, and I found it helpful.
“Preaching is first of all a proclamation of the being of God . . . preaching worthy of the name starts with God and with a declaration concerning His being and power and glory. You find that everywhere in the New Testament. That was precisely what Paul did in Athens—“Him declare I unto you.” “Him”! Preaching about God, and contrasting Him with the idols, exposing the emptiness and the acuity and uselessness of idols.
The preaching that begins with God, Lloyd-Jones affirmed, is worthy of divine approbation. This is precisely where he chose to focus his expositions. The Doctor looked for the grandeur of God in every text and sought to magnify Him above all else. He was constantly elevating God to the highest priority in his pulpit ministry. Even as he listened to other men preach, he was willing to overlook their mediocre delivery or disorganized presentation if the man could simply convey a true sense of the greatness of God.
I can forgive a man a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that though he is inadequate in himself, he is handling something which is very great and glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the gospel. If he does that, I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him.
Lloyd-Jones believed the focus of the sermon is to unveil God. Asking himself the question, “What is the chief end of preaching?” he succinctly answered, “I like to think it is this. It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence.” This is the very essence of what Lloyd-Jones understood authentic preaching to be. He believed it is to be an exaltational exposition, that is, preaching that is always exalting God.” (http://www.ligonier.org/blog/chief-end-preaching/)
Well, after nearly twenty years of ministry, I agree with Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is only when God is exalted in our midst for all his bountiful blessings, not least being His Creation; not least being His faithfulness; not least begin His covenant love; not least being our wonderful salvation in His Son; not least having the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing what is still to come, that God’s people will do the things that God has prepared for them to do, not as a meritorious duty, but out of thankfulness (Eph 2:10). JZ