Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
The people of God gather around the Word of God. Preaching is the most important element of the corporate gathering of the people of God.
God spoke to Moses who recorded these revealed words with a purpose and a direction: “Assemble the people before to me, to hear my words, so that they may learn to revere me” (Dt. 4:10). To this we respond, “Let the assembled peoples gather round you, while you sit enthroned over them on high” (Ps. 7:7). This purpose and direction carries over into the New Testament to the people of God who when gathered are to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1Tim. 4:13).
It is God’s Word that births the people of God, and it is God’s Word that nourishes these people. The Word is central in the gathering and the living, the purpose and the direction. This is true as it is revealed in the Bible. It also reflects some of the important changes brought about during the Reformation in which the Bible was the authority, the sola Scriptura, not the Pope or the Church, and the preaching of the Word was the prominent focus whenever the people of God gathered. The Reformers and churches of the Reformation added to this importance by the way they built and where they placed the pulpit, which served the Word of God and gave prominence to this Word as preached.
This was not about the pastor as preacher. Rather it was about the Word of God as revealed/spoken, for the Bible not only consists of what God spoke in the past, it is the way God speaks today in the present tense. This is why the gathered church would often read Psalm 95, quoted by the preacher in Hebrews 3: “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Ps. 95:7b-11; Heb. 3:7-11, 15; cf. Ex. 17).
Though it is true that with the coming of Christ and the ushering in of the new covenant place and space have been transformed. And yet, we remain embodied in time and place so it means something. As you ponder this, what is the central focus of the church gathering where you meet? What role does the pulpit have? With or without it being the centerpiece of the “furniture,” does preaching remain preeminent. We will pick this up again at some future point.
With this foundation, we now build on yesterday’s post. We learned from Christopher Ash of the “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening.” Today we hear again from Ash on “7 suggestions for encouraging good preaching.”
Tomorrow we will hear a word from Ash on how to hear “bad” sermons.