The book of Acts is a great read. In its pages are the beginnings of God's greatest thing on planet Earth since Jesus Christ...his Church! As I read the book of Acts, a few things are strikingly clear, however, they seem not to be so clear today.
In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is given to believers, apostles are imprisoned, miracles happened, Stephen is stoned to death, Saul ravages the Church with persecution, Saul confesses Christ and is now called `Paul` and many local `churches`are established in cities everywhere. How this was accomplished is of vital importance because it was due to one thing and one thing only. It's this one thing that I believe we fail to grasp. I think Acts 6:7 puts it well,
'And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.'
The word of God increasing is what brought people to the point of believing in Christ. As the believers were persecuted in Acts 8, the word says `now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.' When Philip came into contact with Simon the sorcerer, Philip preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, he believed. When Philip met the Ethiopian Eunuch, he told him the good news about Jesus. In A cts 9 after Saul was converted, he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues and confounded the Jews in Damascus. In Acts 10 Peter told Cornelius and company 'And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he (Christ) is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.` In Acts 11 those who were persecuted fled preaching the Lord Jesus. In Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas were going to Cyprus where on the way they proclaimed the word of God. In Acts 14 in Iconium, Paul and Barnabas were 'speaking boldly for the Lord'and 'there continued to preach the gospel.'
I give all these examples so as to be thorough in my explanation I am about to give. In all of the instances of 'preaching' taking place in the book of Acts, it is always done to an audience of unbelievers.
Biblical preaching is always done to an audience of unbelievers.
I am persuaded that we have quite possibly confused biblical preaching with a religious monologue. Ouch! But let's look at reality here.
1. Preaching was done to unbelievers, always.
2. Preaching was done by believers everywhere that were part of the Church.
3. Preaching was done in the public market place where hearers of every stripe could hear.
4. Preaching was done by simply proclaiming the good news of what Christ had done.
5. Preaching was done in a dialogue, a two-way conversation of questions, refutations and proclamations.
Contrast the biblical example of preaching the gospel with today's preaching.
1. Preaching is mainly done to believers.
2. Preaching is done by one appointed person, usually the same one each week.
3. Preaching is done in the privacy of church buildings to the same audience.
4. Preaching is done by crafting monologues based on proof texts (although there are some instances where pastors study, prepare and deliver godly teaching).
5. Preaching is done in a monologue, a one-way conversation that would be considered out of order or rude to interrupt.
Remember, I'm talking about preaching, not teaching here and there is a difference. Preaching proclaims the gospel of the good news of Christ to the lost while teaching instructs us how to live according to God`s word. There is a difference. There has to be for both have differing and unique purposes.
The centrality of the sermon keeps us safe in our seats.
Today's preaching is in the form of the sermon and it`s the centrality of the sermon and the confusion of what its for that is quite possibly one of the reasons why Western Christianity seems impotent to convert unbelievers. If the fields are white and the harvest is great, why aren't the proverbial barns full? I would contend that the centrality of the sermon keeps us safe in our seats. Should believers preach in a book of Acts-like fashion (see list above), and not simply leave it to paid pastors, we just may see some of the promises in God`s word come to pass. What are those promises? Suffering persecution is one of those promises. Getting rebuffed and resisted is a promise. Seeing people believe and be baptized is a promise.
So I write this not to cause problems, but rather to have people join in the questioning process. Is what we do now how it was done in the Bible? If we are doing it different, why are we doing it different? Is our answer to why we are doing it different found in the pages of the Bible? If those answers are not based on a biblical foundation, how do we justify them?
I urge all believers who may have a chance to grace this page by reading it to determine to do what all believers in the book of Acts did...take the risk, lay it on the line, tell the world around you the good news and preach the gospel!