I have a confession to make. I enjoy the singing during a church service more than the sermon. I know, it’s really bad, right? In fact, what typically goes through my head during the music is, “Man, I hope this isn’t the last song. I don’t want it to be over.” Then when the worship pastor tells us to sit as the pastor comes to preach to us, I think, “Darn, worship is over.”
I’ll bet you think I’m a worship leader. I’m not. God has actually called me to preach. There is something within me that enjoys getting to sing along and lift my hands during the music and doesn’t like having to sit still and keep my attention focused for thirty minutes.
Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe you think the party is over at church after the music ends. Then you have to struggle through thirty minutes of one person talking and no chance to say anything back. You have to be quiet, sit still, and try to maintain attention.
I sit under a great preacher every Sunday who I know and love, but my temptation is to dread the sermon. Something in me and in everyone tends to lean that way.
But the sermon is the central and most important part of each worship service. We will begin to truly cherish the sermon and worship through our listening to it when we understand why it is important.
God’s Choice of Communication
God is all powerful. He is capable of doing anything He wants in any way He chooses. He wants to communicate His truth to humanity. He could do that through writing a message in the stars or the clouds. He could open the skies and speak His truth out of heaven. He could send a pigeon flying to every person with a letter that He wrote with His truth on it.
But the primary way He chooses to communicate truth is through preaching. In the Bible, as early as Noah, we see people preaching. Moses preached. Samuel preached. Solomon preached. The prophets preached. Ezra preached. John the Baptist preached. Peter preached. Paul preached. And the Son of God preached.
When God became a man to walk among the world, He didn’t come as an artist or a musician. He didn’t come as an athlete. He became a preacher.
God’s choice of communication in the world has always been and will always be preaching.
The reality is that this foolish. I’ve met a lot of preachers in my life and most of them are dorks. God doesn’t seem to be choosing the beautiful and successful people to be His messengers. He doesn’t choose Bill Gates or Steve Jobs to be his preacher. He chooses Billy the farmer from the middle of nowhere in Tennessee.
The average person would look at God’s plan and conclude that God doesn’t know what He is doing. However, God is seeking for the glory of His message, not the glory of the preacher. Paul called preaching foolish in 1 Cor 1:21. He said, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”
God uses a means that appears foolish to do His work in the world so that He will receive glory and not the preacher. What are His purposes that He accomplishes through preaching?
God’s Purposes in Preaching
In Romans 10:13-15, Paul says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But then He asks, how will they call on Him if they haven’t heard about Him? And how will they hear about Him unless someone preaches to them? This is why preaching is so important. It is the primary way that God saves people.
Of course, God can save people through a drama. He can save people through Christian films and through the message of a song. He saved me through me reading a book of fiction. There are a number of born-again believers in the church who were saved by some form other than preaching. However, the way God saves most people is that the Gospel is preached and they believe. The church should therefore capitalize on that model. There is value in doing dramas, making and watching movies, and reading books. But these must never be done at the expense of preaching.
What about those who already believe? If preaching saves those who believe it would stand to reason that after you believe, you don’t need preaching. But there is a second purpose to preaching. Preaching sanctifies those who believe. It makes those who are believers believe more. It shapes and fashions Christ’s followers more into the image of Christ. This is Christ’s heart for the church. Before His crucifixion, He prayed for His disciples by saying, “Sanctify them in the truth: your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Christ wants the Word to be what does the transforming work in the believer.
There are aspects of this sanctification that can’t be accomplished through anything else other than preaching. Truth is communicated through preaching in a way that does not happen in a drama or a movie. When it comes to any area of the Christian life, a film or drama just can’t look the believer in the face and tell them what to do and what not to do. This isn’t even communicated in the worship music of the service. It only happens when the preacher opens the Bible and says, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says…”
A New Perspective on the Sermon
When we understand the glory that God has chosen to communicate His truth through the preaching of His word, it gives new meaning to listening to the sermon on Sunday morning. Now, we are not just listening because we are supposed to, but we can be fully aware of the fact that God is using this sermon to teach us more about Himself and what it means to be His child.
Many may say, “I can get all of what you just said by listening to my favorite preacher on a podcast in my car on the way to work.” There are a lot of great preachers in the world and I encourage listening to a wide variety of them. But understand that if the only preaching you hear is on a podcast, you won’t have the proper diet of God’s Word. With podcasts, you can choose what topics you want to listen to and you can be free to turn it off the minute it gets boring or makes you uncomfortable.
And God intends to feed His people through them gathering together in a body. The pastor that He puts over that body is to pray and discern what His church needs to hear and then He chooses what to preach and feed them with. Then the body of believers can hold one another accountable to what is preached. If you do not listen to preaching regularly in a church, you will not get a healthy diet in God’s Word and you will be malnourished.
I enjoy the music in a worship service more than the sermon. But I have to mentally surrender my mind to the fact that God does more work in me through the sermon. So I have to listen to the Word preached and ask the question, “How can I change in light of what is being proclaimed?”
So find a church that has solid preaching, join that church, and listen to the preaching regularly. The sermon is the most important part of the worship service. Make the sermon the part that your heart most longs for in a worship service.