Does the church really need preaching? In a world with ever-shrinking attention spans, on-demand media consumption, and the impending metaverse, preaching may seem as outdated as a Blockbuster video store! In our information age, how important could a 30-45 minute monologue about the Bible really be? Besides, aren’t there more effective means of information consumption fit for the twenty-first century? 

Certainly, we live in a technologically-advanced world with seemingly endless access to information at our fingertips. But if the COVID crisis has taught us anything, it is that technology cannot replace our human longing for personal interaction. Even the best telecommunication software cannot beat the experience of seeing someone face-to-face. This is because there is more to relationships than merely communicating through a computer screen. Similarly, there is more to preaching than merely transmitting information. Preaching is the Spirit-filled proclamation of God’s word in such a way that the listeners accurately understand the meaning of the text, experience the presence of Christ through the text, and are then compelled to respond in worshipful obedience to Christ as he is revealed in the text.

Have you ever considered why God gave his church preachers rather than just Bible readers? God has ordained that his people would interact with him through the preached word. For this reason, preaching is not merely something the church does; rather, it is the primary ministry of the church. This is not to say there are not other essential aspects to the church—there are! However, the church cannot exist apart from the regular Lord’s Day preaching of God’s word to his people. To eliminate or even minimize preaching is like trying to float a boat down a dry creek. Without the ongoing fountain of God’s word rushing from the pulpit, the various streams of the church’s life will dry up. 

Therefore, I want to share four reasons why preaching is essential to the life of the church. 

Christ Speaks to His People Through Preaching

The fact that Christ really speaks to his people through preaching is the impetus for Paul’s charge to “preach the word” (2 Tim 4:2). The word is to be preached because “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16). Since the Scriptures find their origin from God himself, to hear them is to hear the very voice of God. For this reason, Peter can exhort those who speak in the congregation to do so as those “who speak the oracles of God” (1 Pet 4:11). Paul affirms the same to the Thessalonians: “When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess 2:13).

In the same way, when God’s people sit under the preaching of his word, they are hearing the very words of Christ as the preacher rightly expounds and applies the Scriptures. Through preaching, Christ’s word breathes life into God’s people in the same way as when God breathed the breath of life into Adam. 

Christ’s Authority Is Exercised Through Preaching

Christ also exercises his authority through the preached word. As Christopher Ash insightfully puts it, “God did not just give [his people] the book. He gave them preachers of the book so that face to face they could be taught, challenged, rebuked, and exhorted to repentance.” Christ speaks authoritatively through his spokesmen as they herald his word before the people. It is for this reason that Paul identifies Timothy as “the man of God” (2 Tim 3:17). This title is not a general designation for the godly, but a specific title consistently used for those who speak on God’s behalf. It was first used of Moses (Deut 33:1), and it was later applied to David (Neh 12:24, 36) and the prophets (2 Chron 25:9; 2 Kings 8:11; 13:19; 23:16). 

While preachers today are not prophets in the Old Testament sense, they do carry a prophetic role as men set apart by God himself to authoritatively address the church on his behalf. According to Paul, preachers are “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1), meaning that the authority they bear is not their own; rather, it is a borrowed authority whereby they are to rightly communicate God’s authoritative word to his people. In this sense, preachers are like waiters delivering food to a table. They are not chefs who prepare the meal, but servants entrusted with the distribution of the meal. For this reason, preachers are to be found faithful as men of sincerity, commissioned by God to speak in Christ (2 Cor 2:17).

Christ Supplies Faith Through Preaching

Preaching is also the means through which Christ supplies faith for his people. In Romans 10:13, Paul offers this marvelous promise: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” However, for the message to be heard and believed, preachers must be sent (v. 15). Preachers are essential to the spread of the gospel so that everyone can hear, believe, and call upon Christ for salvation. According to Paul, it is through the preaching of preachers that Christ supplies faith to the hearer: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (v. 17). 

Paul’s words are not only true for us when we first come to Christ, but also as we continue to grow in Christ. Our faith grows as we regularly hear Christ’s word preached to our hearts. Paul even tells the Corinthian church that he preached Christ to them “so that [their] faith may not rest in the wisdom of men but the power of God” (1 Cor 2:5). Furthermore, God gifts the church with preachers so that the church may attain the unity of the faith (Eph 4:13) and not depart from it (1 Tim 1:19). Thus, preaching is a means of God’s grace whereby Christ supplies his people with faith to believe and receive his promises. Preaching is the primary means by which God shines the light of the knowledge of Christ in our hearts so that we may see and believe (2 Cor 4:1-6).

Christ Restores the World Through Preaching

Finally, preaching is essential because it is the means through which Christ restores the world. Like Israel of old, churches are assembled groups of people who gather in the holy presence of God to hear him speak (Heb 12:18-24). These assemblies anticipate the great assembly in the new creation when all the redeemed will be gathered around Christ’s throne and all that has been ravaged by sin will be restored. 

It is no wonder that preachers are entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19), for it is through the preached word that God is reconciling the world to himself. Christ transforms his church through his word, and through this message the church is equipped to reach the world. As God’s people encounter him through preaching, they are compelled to go out and bring others in so that they too may encounter Christ through his word. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “When the pulpit is right and the preaching is true… it will attract and draw the people to listen to its message.” 

Why is preaching essential? Because it is Christ’s means of grace through which he speaks to his church (2 Tim 3:16; 4:1), exercises his authority over his church (2 Tim 4:2), supplies faith for his church (Rom 10:17); and gathers the world into his church (2 Cor 5:19). Christ has ordained that preaching be the center of the life and worship of his church. It can never be replaced. It should never be neglected. It continues to remain essential.

Chase Sears (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the Lead Pastor of Oak Park Baptist Church. He lives in Charlestown with his wife, Sarah, and their five children.