A response to the question, published in the Baptist Times on January 21st 2010
‘They think it’s all over’ – thankfully the next three words ‘it is now’ have not yet been pronounced over preaching’s lifeless corpse. In fact, I don’t believe that they will be for a long time to come. As long s we have the power of speech and the ability to listen there will surely be a place for preaching. God has hard-wired into the human psyche the need to hear the most important messages and receive the most important news eyeball- to-eyeball and face to face. In short, we need preachers.
That is not to say that any old preaching will do. There is a crying need for preachers who will put in the study and bend the knee in order to produce sermons which are preachable and whose value is enduring. All too often the preparatory stage of the preaching process is short-circuited. Preachers who rush past the exegetical spadework in order to find the contemporary application may well find that when they get there they have nothing to apply! I’m with Karl Barth here, who told his students that in order to preach they needed ‘exegesis, exegesis and exegesis’. Its hard work but it pays off.
We continue to need preaching which effectively bridges the gap between the ‘then’ of scripture and the ‘now’ of our contemporary existence. Truly prophetic preaching does not so much tell us about the future as articulate the present and what God has to say about it. Centuries ago Isaiah declared that ‘although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more’. (Isaiah 30 v. 20) This is a blessing. To have men and women who will speak God’s authentic word to the church is evidence of God’s continuing goodness to us.