The statement is not: why the Word of God is necessary but not sufficient nor why Jesus Christ is necessary but not sufficient? That would be heretical and not in-line with the biblical text. The Bible is clear; Jesus and the Bible are sufficient in themselves. Jesus is the sufficient Savior. And the Bible is the sufficient revelation for knowledge of God’s saving plan for humanity and spiritual truth for living.
The statement is: why Sunday sermons are necessary but not sufficient. This still might sound heretical or hazardously mischievous to some. It is not that Sunday sermons are not valuable or important. The preaching of the Word of God is extremely important. Jesus preached, His followers preached, and you are called to preach the gospel too. God places a priority on preaching in His church. However, Sunday sermons standing alone are not sufficient for spiritual growth in the church.
Why are Sunday sermons necessary?
Preaching as one of the ways in which we hear the Word of God rather than the supreme way in which the congregation is led, guided and grows to maturity in Christ. So why is preaching so important? In a day of sound bites, interactive learning and in the midst of a highly visual culture are we simply trying to hide our heads in the sand?
Preaching first of all is a unifying activity where the whole Christian body, preacher as well as hearers, come together to hear what the Lord is saying. That is why preaching must be expository, unfolding and applying the text rather than using it as a trampoline to give a boost to our own speculations. This kind of preaching encourages people to read the Bible for themselves. It is effective not when people are entranced by the ingenuity of the speaker but when they say, ‘That’s clear now. Why didn’t I see it before?’ As more and more of the Bible is expounded people grow not just in knowledge but in grace, because it is the Spirit himself who takes the words on the page, and, by the preacher’s faithful although imperfect words, leads us to the Lord Jesus Christ the living Word.
God commands the Word to be preached. How will anyone hear the Word of God unless it is preached? [Romans 10:14-16] Second, the faith of God’s people comes in conjunction with the preaching of His Word. [Romans 10:17] Third, hearing the Word encourages doing the Word [James 1:19-25]. An hour-long Sunday sermon that does not affect the other 167 hours in your week is wasted stewardship of the Word.
Why are Sunday sermons are not sufficient?
First, hearing the Word does not mean there is an application or reproduction of the Word [cf. Matthew 23:3]. Second, preaching the Word must be followed up with intensive and active discipleship. Third, the role of the sermon giver is also trainer and discipler, which involve more than preaching, but exemplifying the message and mentoring the hearers to live the message too. A pastor who simply preaches or teacher who just teaches is missing a key component with their message: multiplication of messengers and ultimately Christ worshipers [note: 3 types of pastors and churches].
|Pastor as Clergyman||Pastor as CEO||Pastor as Trainer|
|Pastor is…||Preacher and service-provider||Preacher and manager||Preacher and trainer|
|Sunday is…||Service of worship||Attractional meeting||Gathering of worshiping disciples with their Lord|
|Outside of Sunday…||Occasional services||Range of events and programs||Disciples reaching out to make disciples|
|Pastoral care through…||Counseling and visitation||Small groups||People ministering to people|
|Church is like…||A small corner store with one employee||A department store with numerous staff||A team with an active captain-coach|
|Tends to result in…||Consumers in maintenance mode||Consumers in growth mode||Disciples in mission mode|
How can you maximize the Sunday sermons Monday through Saturday?
First, seek to apply the big idea of the sermon to your marriage, parenting, work, school or daily living. Prayerfully, practically and purposely apply the sermon. Second, gather together with your churches small group to discuss the sermon and minister to one another by applying the Sunday sermon [cf. Acts 2:42-47]. Stir up and serve one another through the preached Word. Third, share what you learn from the sermon with someone who does not go to your church. When it comes to Sunday sermons: Listen up. Soak it up. Live it up. Step it up. Love the Word. Speak the Word. Live the Word. Spread the Word.
Good preaching comes with authority. This does not lie in the preacher and his personality, eloquence, mastery of ancient languages or his pulpit presence. Of course God can and does use these and other gifts but if that is all the preacher has to offer it is a performance which may instruct, move the emotions, even entertain, but it will not bring life from the dead or cause any growth in grace. That authority comes from the Spirit of God and the conviction that, in the words of Timothy Dudley-Smith, ‘God in his wisdom for our learning gave his inspired and holy Word’.
That conviction, far from leading to laziness in the preacher, will make him study consistently all his ministry as he seeks to unfold the unsearchable riches of Christ. In his wisdom God has ordained that the folly of what is preached [1 Cor 1:15] means that it is not only pulpit preaching Paul has in mind, but all the ways in which the Gospel is presented. But I do not doubt for a moment that Paul deliberately uses the term ‘preached’ with its connotations of authority, and not ‘shared’, ‘debated’, ‘discussed’ or the like. The note of authority in preaching is a continual reminder that all Gospel work is about enthroning Christ in the human heart.
None of this means that the Word of God is collapsed into the words of men, rather, that as when an ordinary sinful man breaks the Word of Life into digestible pieces that word, like the communion bread, mediates the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why preaching is never simply ‘explaining the passage’ but proclaiming Christ. A key passage is Acts 10:44 — ‘While Peter was still speaking these words the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.’ The word of God is not collapsed into the human words, yet it was in the hearing of these words that the Holy Spirit worked powerfully to bring Christ to people.