In dozens of different churches here in Putnam County, ministers come bearing a word for their people. They spend the vast majority of their week listening, visiting, learning, studying, and writing. And when Sunday arrives, they gather the bits and pieces of their experiences and the Bread of Life and they walk into a sanctuary or chapel to feed the people. Some of the ministers carry full manuscripts in their hands – handwritten and carefully prepared. Others walk in holding nothing but a word that has been burning in their heart and mind like a fiery coal. Some of them stand behind pulpits, some pace back and forth. Some wear microphones, while others speak like a candle barely holding out against a November wind. Some grip a Bible firm in their hands. But, however they do it, we usually call it the same thing … “preaching.”
A minister preaching a sermon is – after all – one of the things that makes a church a church, right? It is what we have come to expect, to appreciate, to enjoy. And when the preacher really gets going – when the point really hits home – that’s when you might hear someone somewhere in a church in Putnam County let out a “Preach it!” from the pew.
But, what if the preaching that occurs in churches is not really what preaching is?
“In many North American churches,” writes Lois Barrett in the book The Missional Church, “preaching is practiced only within the church, to the faithful, on Sunday morning. Such preaching probably bears more resemblance to the New Testament concept of ‘teaching’ than to its concept of ‘preaching.”
That’s a heavy statement. But, what is she really saying? And what is “preaching?"
Preaching – in the Bible – means “to pronounce,” or “to proclaim publicly.” And here is what is really newsworthy, “preaching” was originally a political word. When an emperor or ruler had a successful battle, when the leader of a people did something great for the city, a “preacher” would be sent out into the community and start “preaching” about that good news. They would shout it all over the streets, letting all the people know the good news.
So when the early Church “preached,” what they were doing was going out into public places and making known to all people what the real Ruler of the world was doing; they went out to proclaim good news: life has conquered death through Jesus Christ.
This is what Peter and Paul did when they preached. They left Jerusalem and went to announce God’s loving activity in the world: “God has come near; God is healing the world in Jesus Christ. Listen! God has not given up on you or the world!” You can almost see them like two paper boys going all over the ancient world: “Extra! Extra! God is at work to heal and redeem all of creation through Jesus Christ!”
My point is that we are all called to preach. We are all called to make public God’s life-giving ways in the world. In a world plagued by fear, violence, depression, and uncertainty, you are called to lift up a hopeful voice, a liberating arm, a peaceful presence.
You are called to make known to your family and friends … and even strangers … the mighty acts of God, to help others step out of darkness and into light through Jesus Christ.
You, too, are called to preach good news.
So ... preach it, brother. Preach it, sister. The world needs some good news.