Preaching. Countless people have done it and are doing it. And as we all know, there isn't just one way of doing it. When it comes to the work of proclamation, we have various strategies and styles—some healthier than others.
Three Common Approaches to Preaching
What I find most often among preachers is something close to one of the three following approaches. While each approach has value, they are not enough in and of themselves.
The inspired approach. We probably know this better as the "I had a word from the Lord" approach. In its best form, this approach reflects a preacher who has been impressed by the Holy Spirit concerning a particular truth in Scripture. It is, in a sense, first-person: "The Lord led me, and I want to tell you how He is leading." In some ways, it reminds us of 1 Peter 4:11: "If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God's words."
The danger here is that if we aren't binding ourselves to the Word of God, it isn't difficult to get off the path of truth and allow our hearts—which the Bible calls deceitful—to guide our preaching more than we allow Scripture to guide us.
The church has always been faced with the choice of evangelizing through the power of God or by human wisdom, often expressed as apologetics.
A famous “defender of the faith,” Benjamin Warfield, against the overwhelming teaching of Scripture, actually claimed, “Christianity makes its appeal to right reason, and stands out among all religions, therefore, as distinctively ‘the Apologetical religion.’ It is solely by reasoning that it has come thus far on its way to its kingship. And it is solely by reasoning that it will put all its enemies under its feet.”
Apologetics in this context means, “a reasoned defense” rather than a “presentation-in-power” of Christian belief. Apologetics assumes that one becomes a Christian more by intellectually grasping “right doctrine” or “good ideas” rather than humbly receiving the revealed presence and power of Jesus.
In early church history, as the power of the Spirit became a threat to the church hierarchy, most of the early “church fathers” became more acceptable as “apologists,” defending the faith against philosophical and religious attacks, even as they (rarely) conceded that Christianity was mainly spread by those who healed and drove out demons. Since these apologists were trained in the same intellectual traditions as their opponents, their crucial problem is that they accept their opponents’ premise that human wisdom is the way to discover God and to accept His gospel. The gospel then became a matter of accepting certain facts about Christianity (the creeds), rather than basing faith on the “experience” of God’s revelation and power—a problem even today in evangelical Christianity.
A miracle lifestyle begins in God’s presence
For decades, maybe centuries, the church has gathered weekly around a sermon. Our reasons are noble: We value the Scriptures and know that our lives are to be anchored in truth. But the study of the Scriptures is meant to launch us into an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.
In that moment of connection, we obtain life. Without encountering the One to whom Scriptures point, we are a people to be pitied. As Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
Nearly every leader wants revival in one way or another, and many want healings, deliverances and miracles. But it’s hard to have the same fruit as the early church when we value a book they didn’t have above the Holy Spirit they did have.
The head of a large missionary organization told me that they are being sued by two of their members. These people had earlier dedicated their lives to missions.
Now they have various ailments. One man has ulcers. A woman, who lived in the tropics, has skin cancer. A "Christian" lawyer, hearing of their problems, advised them to sue the missionary organization. Their afflictions, he says, are "job related."
The mission director shook his head. "They were willing to give their lives—but I guess that didn't include stomach and skin." The missionaries and their lawyer have been infected with what Paul called "the spirit of the world" (1 Cor. 2:12).
Despite the classic Pentecostal definition, worldliness (the Greek word is kosmos) is far more than cosmetics. It is also more than R-rated movies or X-rated prostitutes. Worldliness is focusing on the things of time rather than things eternal.