Classical Pastoral Practice for Today: Preaching and Worship -- By: Thomas N. Smith
RAR 12:4 (Fall 2003) p. 135
Classical Pastoral Practice for Today: Preaching and Worship
The recovery of the idea of worship within evangelical churches during the past twenty years is a cause for real joy. We owe a great deal to the charismatic churches for this. I can remember times within my own tradition (Southern Baptist) where the idea of worship was relegated to the area of “opening exercises,” like the welcome offered to visitors and the announcements. The “real thing was the sermon or “message,” or, in some cases, the invitation. This is not to say that all Southern Baptists viewed things in this way or followed this practice. The original Baptist Hymnal was organized around a theological and liturgical ideal springing from catholic and reformed principles. But a return to the idea of worship has been a good thing. That the Church gathers primarily for the worship and adoration of our God, rather than for evangelism or even instruction, is so essentially a New Testament idea that it needs no proof.
But, where does preaching fit into this idea? The New Testament speaks of preaching in a variety of contexts. Preaching is for evangelism. Preaching for is instruction. Preaching is for edification. What, if any, relationship does preaching have to worship within the congregation?
The most obvious answer to this is related to Peter’s description of worshipers as those who “offer up [to God]
RAR 12:4 (Fall 2003) p. 136
spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 2:5). In the very least the preacher is engaged in a direct act of worship as he offers up his message to God himself. Some of the best counsel I ever received as a boy preacher was my pastor’s insistence upon this principle. “Preach to Jesus, Tommy,” he would say. “Remember that the most important person sitting here and listening to you is the Lord Jesus Christ himself.” For the preacher, the act of preaching is an offering of his gifts, his powers, indeed, his whole person to God in an act of solemn and joyous worship. But what about those who hear him?
A great part of the answer to this question has to do with our understanding of what preaching and its purpose are. If we understand preaching in its fullest possible meaning, the role of preaching in worship will become clear.
Preaching is the clear and direct communication of God’s Word found in Scripture to a contemporary audience. In this light, preaching itself becomes a translation of the original and situational message of the biblical writers to a group of contemporary listeners. The communication of the original and situational intention of the author call...
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