Many people question how effective preaching is today. More and more studies show simple lecture style learning is not as effective as other learning methods. So why would we continue to have a person get up each week and talk to us for 30-40 minutes? Surely there are more effective ways to communicate!
Such reasoning, though, misses the point of preaching. It’s not first and foremost about passing on information about God. Indeed, if that were the goal there might be better ways of doing that. But preaching is a God-ordained act that accomplishes his work of new creation; therefore, it is not primarily about passing on information or even teaching. Preaching must do that, but it is about more than that.
One passage that makes this clear is Romans 10:14-17,
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
To summarize, we could say saving faith (which is God’s gift) comes through the preaching of God’s word. Christian preaching is miraculous. It brings a new life of faith; it plays a vital role in God’s work of making a new creation, one where the world is made as it ought to be. This seems like a tall order for the person who gets up each week to speak. The good news is that the power of preaching doesn’t come from the speaker; it comes from God and his word.
These days we don’t like to think words have power, but the Bible shows the incredible power of words in Genesis one. God speaks, and darkness gives way to light. God speaks, and deserts become lush gardens. God speaks, and stuff happens!
Not long after the creation of the world, sin entered the picture. It messed up life as it was supposed to be. It broke the relationship between God his people. But God promised that he would make all things new again. He would begin a work of new creation, to restore and redeem everything that was broken.
How then does this work of making all things new spread throughout the world? It’s by preaching. God takes the preacher’s ordinary words and imbues them with his holy power (1 Cor 2:1–5). Ezekiel 37 gives us an incredible picture of this power. God takes the prophet Ezekiel to a valley filled with dry bones. The vultures had gotten their fill. Maggots and worms finished the job. And now the desert sun had bleached the remaining bones until they started to crack. God then asked Ezekiel if these bones could live. Ezekiel responds by saying, “O Lord God, you know.” God tells Ezekiel to speak to the bones, “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.” As Ezekiel did so, the bones started coming together, flesh appeared, oxygen filled their lungs, and suddenly from the dry bones sprang up an army of living people! That is the power of God’s word. Preaching in this biblical sense matters because it’s how God works in the world to bring life out of death. Preaching can occur behind a pulpit or in a valley of dry bones. The location doesn't matter. Preaching is what God uses to restore life to what has died. Each week we get to experience the miraculous work of God in our lives through hearing God speak through the preaching of his word.