I recently read an article by Art Katz entitled ‘The Mystery of Preaching[i];’ it is one of the best articles I have read in recent memory. I had hoped to refer to it in the message about the spiritual apathy in Sardis, but I ran out of time. This article gave words to things I have only been able to feel but not articulate. Allow me to quote a paragraph:
Preaching is a struggle and an ultimate challenge every time it is undertaken. One can make many good biblical statements, but that is not the same as communicating the Word as God’s word… It is a mystery, and the whole church needs to have a standard set before it higher than what it has understood, and to realize the patent impossibility [of proclaiming the] Word of God as the Word of God. We dare not come up to the platform, open the Bible, clear our throats, call the congregation to attention, pray a prayer, open our mouths and commence without a terrible sense of foreboding of all of the great weight that falls upon that moment. If it is not the Word of God, there will be a form of death going forth, instead of life. There is no neutrality here. Either it is going to forward the life of God, or there is going to be a numbness and dullness by just hearing something that is ‘merely’ good. We would probably be better off not to hear it at all! Silence is more to be desired than a mere good sermon, which cannot communicate the Life of God as God’s Word. The result is a deadening of spiritual sensibility.
Perhaps Katz is speaking something akin to what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 – the gospel ministry is to some an “aroma from death to death” and to others “from life to life.” It was the last line of the paragraph that struck deep within my soul: SILENCE IS MORE TO BE DESIRED THAN A MERE GOOD SERMON, WHICH CANNOT COMMUNICATE THE LIFE OF GOD AS GOD’S WORD. THE RESULT IS A DEADENING OF SPIRITUAL SENSIBILITY. In the past I have said several times from the pulpit that a truth-preaching church is one of the most dangerous places in the world. But if Katz is right, do we dare contemplate the potential ramifications within our own assembly? The mystery of preaching is why we need to pray. Pray for your pastors and teachers. If the Spirit doesn’t empower and animate our proclamations, we are nothing more than sermonators. And sermonators only kill.
[i]The entire article is found at http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/articles/index.php?view=article&aid=412
Originally appeared in the May, 2010 newsletter