The Ephesian Church in the middle of the first century had big problems; some of its key leaders were teaching false doctrine. The Apostle Paul sent his young protégé Timothy, armed with only the Scriptures, to confront these false teachers. Paul reminded Timothy that the Scriptures were inspired by God and that he was to use the Word to teach, reprove, correct, and train. With full confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture, Paul told Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2-4). The solution to the problems at Ephesus was the bold preaching of God’s Word.
Over a hundred years ago in England, Charles Spurgeon saw that preaching was becoming “out of season.” Spurgeon writes “Everywhere is apathy. Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false. A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject; only, the shorter it is the better.” Spurgeon was concerned about the church in his day and tried to stop what he called the “downgrade.” He predicted that if the churches in England maintained their present course, they would soon be empty. Today, less than three percent of the population of England attends church. Churches have all but died because of the lack of confidence in the Word of God and a lack of its bold proclamation.
In America we are headed down the same path. Confidence in the power of the proclaimed Word is all but lost in many churches. There is a general call for shorter sermons (“the mind will only absorb what the seat can endure” is the favorite phrase of late) and some are calling to dispense with preaching altogether. Of course, the preachers themselves are not without blame; instead of preaching the Word, many preach pop-psychology, self-help, or ten steps from the latest book they’ve read. Preachers need to be reminded once again of Paul’s mandate to “preach the word” whether people like it or not.
Christians must understand that the proclamation of the Word is the lifeblood of the church. Preaching is an announcement to the world. It is the announcement of the good news (Gospel) that God has revealed Himself through Scripture and through the person of Jesus Christ. It’s the announcement that salvation has come by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
God has chosen the proclamation of the Word as the primary means to save the lost and to mature the saints (Romans 1:15-17; 10-13-17; Colossian 1:25-28; 1 Peter 2:2). Instead of looking for alternatives, the church must love the proclamation of God’s Word and demand that its preachers preach it with great care, accuracy, and boldness.
The church must continue to preach the Word even when the world thinks it is foolish. Paul writes, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:21-25).
Billy Elkins is the pastor of Trinity Church of Chickasha, OK. He is a graduate of Chickasha High School, has a B.A. in Fine Art from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and a Master of Divinity with Biblical Languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, FT. Worth, TX. He is currently in the final dissertation phase of a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Philosophy from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY.