Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It Goes Both Ways: Effective Preaching and the Congregation

While commenting on Jesus's rejecting in Nazareth from Mark 6:1-6, William Barclay noted the following:
There can be no preaching in the wrong atmosphere. Our churches would be different places if congregations would only remember that they preach far more than half the sermon. In an atmosphere of expectancy the poorest effort can catch fire. In an atmosphere of critical coldness or bland indifference, the most Spirit-packed utterance can fall lifeless to the earth. (140)
In other words, preaching is a two way street. In order for the public proclamation of the gospel  to be effective it must come through the soul of a faithful minister of Christ and be received with the attentive hearts of its hearers.

The context of the above quote is important. Jesus returns to his hometown after a series of incredible miracles - calming of a major storm, the cleansing of a demonized man, the healing of a hemorrhaging woman, and the raising of a little girl. One would suspect that when Jesus arrives in his hometown, he would be received triumphantly with celebration and thanksgiving. Instead, he is rejected. Mark tells us that Jesus taught in the local synagogue and the Nazarenes were astonished by both what they heard from Jesus and what had been reported he had done in nearby villages. In the end, they took offense of him.

Striking that the Son of God, who they describe as "the son of Mary," preached from the pulpit in Nazareth to little to no effect. One doubts it was the lack of ability, art, of giftedness on the part of our Savior, but from the congregations willingness to receive the Word.

The truth is, apart from the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, there will be no revitalization or revival at any church unless the church wants it. Often the effectiveness of the preaching has as much to do with the congregation as it does with the preacher. Most ministers can attest to preaching similar sermons to different congregations and receiving two unique responses. What changed was not the message, the delivery, the illustrations, the applications, or the exegesis, but the hearers willingness to receive and respond to the preached word.

Of course this is not the only aspect of Christian ministry where this principle holds true. The same is true regarding pastoral leadership.

Nevertheless, in order for a church to thrive, it takes two: the under-shepherd and the sheep. Both must take the gospel and the work of the church seriously and that includes preaching.

For more:
It Goes Both Ways: Pastor Leadership and Church Submission
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