What I Believe About Preaching

By Dr. Jack Graham

Many things have changed since I became a preacher. The one thing that hasn’t changed is my commitment to boldly proclaim the powerful, life-changing news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that there is no greater time than right now for strong men of God to stand firm in the pulpit, be grounded in the Word of God, and proudly proclaim the Good News.

Although the world has become increasingly skeptical about whether Christian preaching can spark faith, hope and a sense of purpose in human hearts, I believe that God still uses preaching. God still chooses to use the proclamation of the Word to change lives. Thus, the Gospel must be preached. It must be preached to the good moral man who has not obeyed the Gospel as well as to the immoral. Just as Paul instructed Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1–2), there is never a time to soften or let up in preaching the Gospel. As long as sin and false doctrine are in the world, the Gospel must be preached, for there is no other remedy for sin. And I am more committed now than I have ever been to preach the truth of the Bible and to boldly deliver God’s Word!

As long as the preaching of God’s Word remains a prominent feature of religious services across the world each week, it is my conviction that preachers maintain the right attitude, audacity and authenticity in their preaching. Allow me to expound upon this idea.

The Attitude of Preaching

Preaching has been a staple of Christian practice since Jesus’ first followers emulated His teaching ministry. And what was true then about their attitudes toward preaching is certainly true today; if we have a poor attitude toward the Gospel, then we will have a poor outcome in our preaching. The truth of the matter is, our attitude toward what we preach should always be much more important than how we preach.

Obviously, technique is not unimportant. We should work to communicate in such a way that our preaching is clear to outsiders. Our sermons should have an understandable flow, and a dominant idea. But we are never to focus more on eloquent speech and the how to preaching than the true power that comes from what we preach. Even the Apostle Paul said he did not come with brilliance of speech or of persuasive words of wisdom, but with the power of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1, 2 and 3). In John Stott’s classic work Between Two Worlds, he writes:

“In a world which seems either unwilling or unable to listen, how can we be persuaded to go on preaching, and learn to do so effectively? The essential secret is not mastering certain techniques but being mastered by certain convictions. In other words, theology is more important than methodology.”

Preachers need only the power of God’s Word and not the beauty of oratory and excellence of speech. Some of the greatest preachers of all time were not mighty speakers. They spoke with conviction and convincing knowledge of God’s truth, not with the entertaining words of eloquence. The key to maintaining a right attitude toward preaching the Gospel is not mastering certain techniques, rather it’s about being mastered by God’s Word.

The Audacity of Preaching

One of the major things I’ve experienced over my forty-plus years in ministry is the profound weight and responsibility of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

At the age of 20, I stepped into my first senior pastor role at East Side Baptist Church in Cross Plains, Texas. It was here that God graciously made me aware of the amazing burden of caring for His people. I realized that there is a certain audacity to preaching and pastoring a church that must be grounded in obedient humility. Preaching is much more than speaking and delivering content. Preaching is supernatural. It comes to life from a deep love for the Trinitarian God, an unshakable commitment to His Word, and an unwavering love for His people, which is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).

One of the great English leaders of the Church, Charles Simeon (1759–1836) wrote of the gravity and the glory of preaching:

“It is easy for a minister to prate in the pulpit, and even to speak much good matter; but to preach is not easy—to carry his congregation on his shoulders as it were to heaven; to weep over them, pray for them, deliver the truth with a weeping, praying heart; and if a minister has grace to do so now and then, he ought to be very thankful.”

To stand up in front of people and boldly preach the Gospel is an audacious thing. It is a high calling for those who are strong. There is a certain responsibility that God has called the preacher to handle that surpasses many other professions in the world. The pastor is not only responsible to properly handle the Word of God but, also, the pastor is first and foremost a shepherd who has been given stewardship over Jesus Christ’s precious flock. As pastors, we will have to stand and give account for the sheep in our fold. We are called to lead every church member with the rod of the Scriptures. We are to protect them from wolves and even from themselves. We are called to lead them through the war zone of culture, helping them to persevere to the end and not fall captive to the empty philosophy of the world.

As the great 20th century preacher Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said in his great work, Preaching and Preachers:

“The work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. If you want something in addition to that I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.”

Knowing the weight of your responsibility and the urgency for sound Gospel preaching, when you step into the pulpit, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I well prepared? (Preach with accuracy)
  • Am I more concerned about what others think of my sermon or what God thinks? (Preach with fear)
  • Am I drawing more attention to me or to God? (Preach with humility)
  • Am I depending on the Holy Spirit’s power or my own speaking ability? (Preach with power)
  • Have I applied this message to my own life? (Preach with integrity)
  • Is this message relevant? (Preach with urgency)

Men, it is imperative that we step up to the plate and boldly preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are not professional speakers, life coaches or entertainers. We are heralds of the Gospel, proclaimers of the Good News, shepherds of the flock and witnesses to the love and life of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Authenticity of Preaching

Throughout my lifetime, I have seen more lives eternally changed for the Glory of God through the preaching of authentic pastors. Authenticity and sincerity in the pulpit are what most captivates people. The kind of preaching that changes lives is from the heart to the heart, not from the head to the head. And when a preacher can reach into his heart, allow himself to be vulnerable, and speak from his deepest pain and suffering, lives will be changed.

On the other hand, I have seen preachers try so hard to be someone that they are not, and their fear of being vulnerable allows Satan to place restraints on their preaching. When we proclaim God’s Word to the Church, we need to trust the authority and inspiration of Scripture, and not in any way feel we are trying to make the Bible relevant. Rather, we understand that it is relevant. Everything we need to know about God is in its pages. We can step into the pulpit with sincerity, boldness and confidence because of the sufficiency of Scripture. We are just letting the lion out of the cage. When you are authentic, people feel that they can trust you. And the more people trust you, the greater your potential for life-changing communication.

I agree wholeheartedly with my good friend James MacDonald, who said, “The greatest compliment anyone could give you about your preaching ministry is that the way you preach is the way you are in real life.” When you are in the pulpit, don’t act bigger than you do in normal life. You don’t have to play a part or act the way you think others expect you to act. Don’t mimic your favorite pastor or seminary professor. Be you! Be authentic. When people sense the movement of God in your life through the Spirit, the more likely they are to listen to you because Christ’s life is flowing through you at that moment.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones famously described preaching as “theology coming through a man who is on fire.” What our generation needs are preachers who not only possess the truth, but who are possessed by the truth. Authenticity goes a long way in preaching the Gospel.

Our sermons should never be flippant, cowardly or boring, but should instead be branded with the earnestness of a messenger who has been captivated by their message. If we have the greatest news that history will ever record, then the attitude, sincerity and authenticity of our tone should reflect the majesty of His truth.

Dr. Jack Graham serves as Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest and most dynamic churches in the country.