What Is Preaching?

Preaching has to do with more than imparting knowledge, be it ever so true; it deals with the will as well a s with the reason.

By I.H. Evans

The word '' preach " is derived from the Latin praeco, which means " a herald, or public crier." The word "preaching" in its modern sense means delivering a discourse to instruct men and to persuade them to a better way of living. Preaching has to do with more than imparting knowledge, be it ever so true; it deals with the will as well as with the reason.

Persuasion belongs as much to preaching, and is as much a part of what preaching accompIishes, as is the imparting of knowledge or the interpretation of Scripture. A sermon may be intellectual, the arguments logically arranged and unanswerable,  the  theme exhaustively and  completely handled,  and  yet the sermon  be  nothing  more  than  a  lecture or an essay.  True preaching must not only convey information, it must carry conviction, it must move the whole being to action. There is something in it which is unearthly, spiritual, divine. It is to be a voice from  the unseen, audible, visible, thrilling. 

It must lift the hearer above earthliness, above troubles and sorrows, and place before him, in convincing and compelling form, a future life and the means of attaining it. If the sermon fails to move its auditors, it is not a sermon. It may be a lecture, a n address on a suitable theme, or an oration. But whatever it may be, it is not preaching. A noted religious leader once said: " The true aim of a discourse is not so much to enlighten the mind as to move the heart; not so much t o convince us of our duty, as to impel us to fulfill it. . . . This is genuine eloquence, because it fulfills the legitimate end of preaching, namely... the spiritual progress of the hearers."

After every sermon that he has given, the true minister of the gospel ought to be able to say, with Moses. " I call heaveo and earth to record this day, . . . that I have set before you life and death, bIessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may Iive." Deut. 30:19.

An illustration of true preaching is found in Peter's sermon before the multitude on the day of Pentecost. When he had finished his short talk, they cried, "What shall we do? " When Felix and his wife DrusiIIa heard the prisoner Paul reason of " righteousness, temperance [self-denial], and the judgment to come" Felix was deeply agitated, and said he would hear Paul again. When  King Agrigpa heard Paul make his famous defense, it stirred his very soul, and he said to Paul: " With but little persuasion thou wouldst fain make me a Christian." Acts 26:28, A. R. V. Such sermons are true preaching. They break up the fallow ground of the heart, and prepare it for the good seed of the kingdom. 

Such was the preaching of John the Baptist. Men were moved by his ministry, and cried out, "What shall we do?" Christ stirred the people who heard Him preach. Some said, " He  hath a devil," but others declared, "Never man spake like this man."

Christ's sermons are models of true preaching. Preaching is the voice of God heard through man. The Holy Ghost speaks through flesh, but man puts all there is in him in power, in utterance, in vehemence, in holy zeal, into the sermon. The sermon is a living, throbbing, compelling thing: it lives because the man puts himself into his preaching, and personifies his words into a burning message moving the souls of men. That is preaching.

Shanghai, China.

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By I.H. Evans

January 1928

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