Thursday, November 27, 2008

Preaching as Spiritual Formation

image Craig Brian Larson of has written an insightful and helpful article on the Spiritual Disciplines and preaching.  He  notes that most programs on Spiritual Formation either ignore preaching or relegate it to a mere mention. 

Contrast this with the important description of the early church's spiritual disciplines in Acts 2:42–47. It begins: "They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (italics mine). In addition, the importance that the apostles placed on preaching (in passages like Acts 6:1–4; 1 Tim 4:13; 5:17; 2 Tim 4:1–3) suggests that listening to preaching was a first-order spiritual discipline. Certainly the leaders of the Reformation felt that way. They placed primary attention on public teaching and preaching. Karl Barth, writing to the well-educated West, regarded the proclamation of the Word as one of the three fundamental ways that people experience the life-changing Word of God.

Larson goes on to say (he goes into more full detail on most of these items) 

Sound biblical preaching does the following nine things that individual Bible reading, memorization, and meditation does not:

  1. Good preaching rescues us from our self-deceptions and blind spots, for left to ourselves we tend to ignore the very things in God's Word that we most need to see.
  2. Preaching brings us before God's Word in the special presence of the Holy Spirit, who indwells the gathered church.
  3. Good preaching challenges us to do things we otherwise would not and gives us the will to do them.
  4. Good preaching brings us into the place of corporate obedience rather than merely individual obedience.
  5. Good preaching contributes to spiritual humility by disciplining us to sit under the teaching, correction, and exhortation of another human. Relying on ourselves alone for food from the Word can lead to a spirit of arrogance and spiritual independence.
  6. Good preaching gives a place for a spiritually qualified person to protect believers from dangerous error.
  7. Preaching and listening is a uniquely embodied, physical act. It literally puts us into the habit of having "ears that hear." There is something to be said for this physical act of listening and heeding.
  8. Good preaching does what most Christians are not gifted, trained, or time-endowed to do: interpret a text in context, distill the theological truths that are universally true, and apply those truths in a particular time and place to particular people in a particular church—all this with the help of resources informed by 2,000 years of the Church's study that average Christians do not own.
  9. Listening to preaching has a much lower threshold of difficulty for almost all people.

He also goes on to address the question, "If preaching is so important, how can some Christians listen to it for decades and not be transformed?" But I’ll leave that for him to answer for you.

If you are a member of you can find the complete article here here.  The shorter, non-member version is here.

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