Lecturing or Preaching?
I’ve been thinking about the differences between lecturing and preaching. This recent article by Iain H. Murray got my thinking started again.
I must begin with a caveat though. I think the difference shouldn’t be an either/or but perhaps points along a spectrum. Also, I think the differences aren’t hugely important at times as both are valuable and edifying for the people of God. However, I still think some distinctions should be noted. This is especially in our contexts where I feel, for many Bible College graduates in Sydney, many don’t really know the difference between preaching and lecturing/teaching and inadvertently end up much more along the ‘lecturing’ side of the spectrum and hence miss out on giving their flock the full benefit of what preaching does and can do.
Now since I don’t want to draw false dichotomies unnecessarily, I won’t list my points below as ‘preaching’ is x versus ‘lecturing’ is y. Rather, I’ll just jot down off the top of my head some features that I think make preaching ‘preaching’.
1. Preaching aims at transformation
You’ve probably heard it before but the goal of the preacher isn’t ultimately information but transformation. Thus the preacher needs to be above all else prayerful and reliant on the Holy Spirit.
2. Preaching aims at the affections
The Puritans, especially Jonathan Edwards, rightly emphasised the importance of our affections and they preached with the affections in mind. When they refer to the affections they don’t simply mean a purely emotional response. What Edwards meant by affections, especially proper ‘religious affections’, is directly related to our minds and our wills. So for the preacher, it is important to feed the mind with truth and challenge the will. But the preacher recognises that he is shooting for the mind en route to moving the affections. For it’s not enough for me just to ‘know’ what holiness and sin are and be told to act on that; I need to be stirred in my affections to love holiness and hate sin. The mind needs to be fed until the heart perceives and apprehends the truth to such an extent that my very desires are moved in sync with these truths. Then my will can be moved to change my behaviour and then there will be true transformation.
(An aside: this is why Puritan sermons were soooo long – for you can’t get into the affections without spending significant time leading your hearers to meditate on the truth until it warms your heart. There’s my excuse for long sermons! haha)
3. Preaching does a double-exegesis
Preaching doesn’t just exegete the Word, it must exegete the world. Therefore cultural engagement and application to your hearers is so important. This means that great sermons should be on the one hand ‘timeless’ (because of the Word) but on the other hand be very ‘time-bound’ (because of the world), since they were powerful precisely because they were preached to a particular culture at a particular time.
4. Preaching is prophetic
Now I’m careful not to say that preaching equals the gift of prophecy since I think prophecy in the Old and New Testaments is something else (though there might be instances of the prophetic gift in operation during the preaching). However I do think that preaching has a prophetic element to it since the preacher has the enormous responsibility of being a herald for God, of calling his generation to repent of sin, pursue holiness, seek Jesus and love Jesus. The preacher therefore has a particular ‘unction’ (an anointing/burden placed on him) to fulfil the role of a prophet in his generation and must preach with a certain amount of earnestness and passion (see my last post). It’s sad that so few preachers nowadays preach with this sort of ‘unction’. I think preaching at times is so committed to technique that we’ve lost a desire for a prophetic presence that can’t be reduced to methods of communication.
5. Preaching is an act of worship
Now of course all of life, including ‘lecturing’ is worship. However I think that for the preacher, what he does while he preaches is particularly his act of worship in the context of the corporate worship of God’s local gathering of people. In other words, as the preacher I must not think that I am excused from worshipping during the rest of the corporate gathering, or that my sermon is disconnected from the worship of the gathering, nor think that only the congregation is worshipping as they listen to my sermon. Above all else for me, this preaching, this heralding, this moment is my worship – something I pray and hope will be faithful to God and acceptable to him. The preacher ought to pray this before his sermons, if not at the pulpit then at least in his heart: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).
I’m sure there’s more. This is just my 30 mins of thought over breakfast. I’d love to hear what you think!