The dictionary definition of the word "preach" is, "Delivering a public discourse on some religious topic. To give earnest advice on religious or moral subjects ; to proclaim, to publish, to deliver." Thus a preacher is defined as one who preaches on religious subjects; one who teaches anything with earnestness. The dictionary definition of the word "lecture" is, "A formal discourse upon any subject."
I have gathered from these definitions that lecturing implies a formal presentation of a subject, whereas preaching implies the association of intense earnestness. If my understanding of the difference between the words "preaching" and "lecturing" is correct, then I must conclude that we have been called to be preachers and not lecturers.
When Jesus began His ministry, He did not propose to lecture on "good tidings." It was prophesied of Him that He was anointed to preach good tidings unto the poor. Preaching implies that the message delivered is a vital part of the preacher himself. One may lecture on a certain subject without the subject's being an integral, vital part of himself, but true preaching comes from the very heart of the preacher.
One of the last acts of Christ on earth was to send His disciples forth as preachers, not lecturers, of the gospel. The prophets of the Old Testament were great preachers. The apostles were pre-eminently preachers, and the cry of the apostle Paul was, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel !"
Earnest, devoted, sincere preaching is the most important and vital factor of our lives as ministers. No time, no strength, no thought, no effort can be too much to devote to the task of successful preaching. There is perhaps nothing in life to compare with the joy of true preaching. What a responsibility it is to be called to proclaim the gospel, to teach the truth, to win men and women to Christ through preaching. We are impressed with the fact that God had only one Son, and He made Him a minister.
The preacher is called of God. His work is to save men and women. Men and women are saved as units, and not en masse. The lecturer imparts knowledge to the crowd, but the preacher preaches for the individual salvation of every person in his audience.
The apostle Paul's instruction to Timothy was to "preach the Word." That is, deliver, proclaim, herald the Word ; not lecture about the Word, but proclaim it, preach it with authority.
The preacher is a messenger, a witness, a pleader, a comforter, a herald. His work is infinitely greater and more important than that of the lecturer. As one writer says :
"The preaching that our time needs, the preaching that will relieve doubt and lead men to Christ, must be more than positive, it must be authoritative ; that is the authority rooted in the personal conviction of the preacher. The preacher needs to live so near to God that when he speaks he shall be felt to speak of the light in which there is no darkness at all."
The great instrument of the preacher's work is the word of God. The word of God is the greatest power in the universe. All through Scripture the word of the Lord stands out prominently as the greatest force in the world, having supreme power over men. The word of God is likened to a sharp sword. We as ministers are to wield that sword with power. We will never wield the sword of the Word with power as tame lecturers, but only as devoted, powerful preachers.
Noah was a dynamic preacher of a special warning message for his generation. Noah's preaching was appealing and pleading—elements that are lacking in mere lecturing. Noah was a preacher of righteousness, under a profound conviction, who revealed by his personal life and conduct the sincerity of his belief. The word of the Lord came to Noah as it did to Abraham and all the prophets down to John the Baptist, the greatest of them all. So the word of the Lord comes to us today with an even greater urge. It brings with it the conviction of a personal commission. It means a definite call to work. What a strength and inspiration it gives a man to know and to feel that the word of the Lord came ta him I
We are commissioned to preach a definite message today. "I saw another angel," says John, "fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach . . . to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." We notice that this is a world-wide message, a warning that is to be preached everywhere. It is God's last warning and must be proclaimed in no uncertain tones. The angel is not represented as lecturing on the message, but as preaching the message. And those who proclaim this last, all-important, vital message must know what it is; otherwise they will not be able to give it. The messengers of God must present the fulfillment of prophecy as proof of the message. They must believe the message in order to preach it. It has been the preaching of the message from south to north and from east to west that has given this denomination strength.
The living preacher is a man of ordinary appearance with perhaps nothing to distinguish him from the man who lectures, but nevertheless he is a man raised up of God for a special work. The chief points which mark him are two : First, he is a man with a message, and he delivers that message faithfully, fearlessly, authoritatively, convincingly, and appealingly. He preaches with boldness. He witnesses without fear. Second, he is a man with a blessing for the people. Like Moses he is able to bless as well as teach.
The secret of successful preaching is the power of a godly life. The demands of sincerity may not be as exacting to a lecturer as to a preacher. People will soon discover whether we are in earnest. We cannot deceive them for long. Character is dynamic. The preacher must practice what he preaches. He must be a man of prayer. Elijah was a man of God, and prayer was the prevailing characteristic of his life. A lecturer may begin his lecture without prayer, but a preacher can never preach without prayer. His sermon must be born in prayer.
The twelve disciples of Jesus were called to be preachers. They were called to feed the people, not to lecture about food. Even so it is with us. "Give ye them to eat." Give the people food. Don't lecture about food. The people surely are more needy and hungry today than ever before. We have the bread of life. Are we to dispense and impart the bread of life as preachers, or merely to tell people about it as lecturers? The call comes to us today, "Give ye them to eat," but we must have the bread of life before we can give it. Are we feeding the people, or are we merely multiplying words? Remember these three outstanding points in the story of the feeding of the multitude :
I. The Perishing World. The people were in great need. Hunger had produced want and weakness.
2. The Powerless Disciples. Their store was small, limited, insufficient. They were powerless to meet the needs of the multitude.
3. The Perfect Savior. When once the disciples had brought their little, He blessed and gave, and fed the crowds.
Christ never commands us to go without first assuring us that He has all power, and that His power is available to us. If we are to be successful preachers, we must maintain an attitude of constant dependence on God. Intercessory prayer prepares the way for our message, and the more we pray, the more successful our labors will be.
The lecturer might be successful in proving his thesis, but the preacher sets out to proclaim truth. The object of preaching is not to frame an irrefutable argument but to produce an irresistible impression. There is no such thing as an argument to which it is impossible for a willful man to offer objections. But there is such a thing as an irresistible impression which subdues and holds the soul forever.
The living preacher is a herald, not a lecturer. There is no bated breath or whispered hesitancy about the announcement of a herald. His attitude and tone indicate confidence and fearlessness. He knows his Master and his Master's authority and power. Thus with confidence does the preacher deliver his message.