As someone who champions the cause of good preaching, Jen Wilkin’s post titled, Why The Sermon Is Not Enough, really caught my attention.
Here’s a great excerpt:
As someone who sits under extremely good preaching each week, I have noticed a pattern: Good preaching creates a hunger for deeper learning—it awakens our desire to know more of this God we hear proclaimed. Rather than “refilling our spiritual tanks” once a week, good preaching drives us to hunger for more truth than we had when we walked in the church doors. It whets our appetite for deeper study.
When will you learn Ezekiel beyond an annual scan in a reading plan? When will you mine Genesis chapter by chapter for all its richness? Seeking out learning environments in addition to the sermon allows us to do just that. My hunger from the weekend sermon finds me halfway through a 22-week study of the Book of Exodus with a group of women. We could spend three times that long unearthing all the treasures this book contains, but by the time our study is done, we will remember the story of the Exodus each time redemption is preached from the pulpit. We will be able to fill in the historical and theological context for any mention of Moses in a sermon. We will understand law and grace in a fuller way. We will remember how the ministry of Christ was shadowed clearly and repeatedly in the pages of Exodus, 1,500 years before his advent. The time we invest in learning Exodus from start to finish will enhance and amplify our ability to be nourished by the sermon.
Bible study and preaching should hold hands. Individually, they are each beneficial, but together their benefit magnifies. What about you? Will you fill yourself with sermon after sermon and call it done? Or will you allow the sermon to whet your appetite for deeper study, seeking out places for that to happen? Were you a mediocre student in school? You can be a faithful one now. Begin by acknowledging that the sermon is not enough. Then find a class, a group, a study partner, a study guide to take you where the sermon is exhorting you to go—deeper, and deeper still.
If Jen’s observations are true, if in fact ‘good preaching creates a hunger for deeper learning – it awakens a desire to know more of this God we hear proclaimed‘, then it must be asked, “Is the same criteria to be used to discern ‘bad’ preaching?”
Without enquiring of the scholars, who defines good preaching as opposed to bad? Every week, thousands of parishioners cast judgement on what is good, and what is bad.
Using Jen’s criteria, no matter how good the preaching seems coming from any particular pulpit, unless the flock is being driven to the Scripture in order to satisfy the hunger evoked by faithful proclamation, it was not good preaching. Entertaining preaching. Lively preaching. Maybe even factual preaching. But not good preaching.
I think Jen may be on to something.
“Lord, deliver me from seeking to satisfy the hunger of man’s soul in my own giftedness and effort. Help me be a man who labours to deliver a taste of your glories in such a way that can only be truly satisfied when men turn from me and fully to you.”
To the praise of His glory!