David W. Dillon

Superintendent, Appalachian District

© 2009

“I really appreciated your ministry at our church. It was so good to hear a message from the Bible.” As thankful as I was for the compliment, I couldn't help but wonder what the normal fare was from thatparticular pulpit.

At risk of sounding old-fashioned (something I seem to get better at with each passing year) and simplistic, let me say emphatically that the word of God should still be the preacher's primary resource for sermon material. It is the word of God that is alive and powerful (Heb. 4:12), and only the word of God that is able to give rise to faith that can have life-changing results (Rom. 10:17).

Please do not misinterpret my concerns here. There are many different ways to present the gospel, the good news of God's plan for people. The culture of the audience and the setting of the presentation will dictate the most effective means of communicating the message. The man or woman called to communicate God's Truth should be well read and knowledgeable, able to cite supportive sources and information relevant to the presentation.

Even so, the Bible must remain the focal point of our preaching and communication on behalf of God and His kingdom. Scripture must not be relegated to the role of a tagline tacked onto what may be nothing more than a comedy routine or self-promoting, feel-good topical speech. 

Again, please don't get me wrong. Humor certainly has its place in speaking truth; Jesus demonstrated this often in the Gospels. And topical addresses can capitalize on those things that already have the attention of people. But the Bible must still occupy first place in the mouth of God's spokesperson (the preacher) and the hearts and minds of his or her listeners.

Many say that the Bible is just too outdated to speak to the needs and issues facing a 21st century world. They reason that people don't want to hear a sermon anymore so they must be given talks with a spiritual theme or application. And, heaven forbid, we might offend someone if we declare what the Bible says on controversial and sensitive subjects.

So what? If we really believe that God's word is what it claims to be—the very breath of the One who made the universe and all that is within, profitable for teaching truth (doctrine), pointing out errors (reproof), addressing sinful behavior and attitudes (correction), and training of a lifestyle that God says is right (instruction in righteousness)—then how can we do any less than make it front and center in our communication of and for Him?

Paul's admonition to a young preacher in 2 Timothy 4:2-5 is as applicable today as in the day it was written. Allow me to summarize it here but please read, study, and meditate on it before your next speaking engagement: Preach the word of God! Be prepared whether the time is right or not. Patiently correct, rebuke and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching (doctrine), but will follow after their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. They will reject the truth. But you must keep a clear head in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News and fully carry out (fulfill) the ministry God has given you.

Now go preach and speak the truth in love!