What Makes A Preacher Great?: Part One
His Subject Matter
Psalm 138:1-2 (ESV)
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing of your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
Subject matter is of first importance.
Even when 'subject matter' is thought of in its broadest sense, it still remains of first importance. For the preacher, as opposed to a presenter at the most recent TED Talks, not only takes up a subject to talk about, he must always proclaim the God who he speaks for. He speaks with the Word of God - for the name of God.
But let's take these in turn.
Subject Matter as Word
A great preacher's subject and text must be the Bible.
A great preacher's primary concern is the Word of God in all its fullest, multi-facetted glory. He is not a YouTube Teacher, a Newspaper Teacher, or even a Concordance Teacher - he is a Bible Teacher. While it may at times be useful to refer to some of these sources in the preparation stage, Youtube is not God's means to illuminate His Word, that job has already been taken - the Holy Spirit has more hits than whichever comedic duo are your usual go-to illustration source.
Of course, it is possible to bellow out Bible verses and litter the lectern with scripture, but still not be using the Word as your primary content. How many preachers have stood before a congregation and declared, "Thus say'th the Lord!", when in fact, that's not what the Lord has said at all?
When God spoke, He spoke deliberately. God's deliberate Word was channelled through the Spirit to men who were carried along by His will. However the mystery of divine inspiration worked, each author wrote with intent; he meant his writing to mean something to those he wrote for. So while a particular passage may be significant to us in a variety of ways, it does not have multiple meanings. There is one Word. There is one truth. There is one means by which we are sanctified.
Preacher: Preach this Word. Preach God's Word. Proclaim the wisdom of God as His plan for redemption unfolds across the generations. Don't proof text - preach text! Show your people the wonder of the Word. Exalt the Word - hold it high. Worship through the Word.
Great preachers always do this.
Subject Matter as Name
A great preacher is a herald for the King of kings.
In my introductory post to this series, I stated a number of warnings, one of which addressed the issue of whose name we preach for. Great preachers preach for the fame of God's name, not theirs.
Count Zinzendorf (1700-1760), who's life and ministry is viewed as being instrumental for the advance of missionary effort over the last 200 years, was quoted as saying,
"Preach the Gospel, die and be forgotten."
When the preacher takes the pulpit, it is as if he begins by saying, "Hear ye, hear ye - a proclamation from the King".
When the preacher takes his seat, it should be that Christ remains exalted and God's name enthroned in the hearts and minds of the people.
Preacher: Preach the Gospel, die and be forgotten. There is only one who did not do this; He preached, then died, but His name will be honored for eternity. Preach that name. Exalt Christ in your preaching. It is not only our prayers that should be uttered this way, but our preaching should end with the words, "...in His name we speak. Amen."
Great preachers always do this.