My earlier posts considered church teaching as a means of learning how to read the Bible. I believe this is a valid form of preaching because the Gospel is the primary key (or hermeneutic) to understanding the Bible. You can’t teach the Bible well without preaching the Gospel.
I’ve received some further great responses to the earlier posts. A common point has been to question the concept of preaching as primarily having an educational function. What if preaching in church is not primarily about teaching the Bible? Instead, preaching can also be seen as a means of encountering God or of engaging the heart and soul.
This takes us back to an interesting point in the discussion and draws out some important questions.
- What is the aim of preaching? What function does it perform within the Christian community?
- What is the biblical foundation of this view of preaching to the Christian community? Is the closest idiom that of the OT prophet?
- How does such preaching then relate to the meetings of the NT church which focused on the Apostles teaching although prophesy appears to have had a role.
- A high view of preaching is shared by many pastors and scholars. But is it suggesting that when we preach God speaks or God’s presence descends? If so, it may have a bearing on answering the next question.
- What Ephesian’s category of preacher might we place this perspective within. Is this the utterance of the apostle, prophet, evangelist or pastor-teacher? And what might that say about the best context for such speech?
- Does this privilege the preacher’s words, or the act of preaching, over the Scripture? Does God speak more clearly in the sermon than in the Bible? Does God inhabit the sermon more than he inhabits the Scriptures. Or are sermons conduits to the Almighty in the same way as Scripture?
- What is more beneficial to the congregation, the preaching event or learning to hear God for themselves in the a Bible?
- If the anticipated outcome is a divine encounter or heart warming experience, should such preaching be privileged over singing and prayer?
For want of a better concept, I tend to think of this perspective as ‘preaching as sacrament or sacramental event’. Here, behind the content and act of the preaching is a movement of the Spirit which establishes a transformative encounter with God.
I wonder whether the roots of viewing church preaching as sacrament go back to the Reformation. It might be argued that the reformers simply replaced the mass with the sermon. The sermon then became a means of grace and encounter with God which was mediated by a specially set-apart celebrant.
The view of preaching as a sacrament or sacramental event may be an entirely legitimate perspective but it’s always good to examine the assumptions behind our practice.