What is preaching? The origin of the word ‘preach’ comes from two Latin words. That is, prae, which means before, and dicare, which means proclaim. From there we can gather that preaching speaks of ‘proclaiming [a message] before [an audience]’. Thus, when one mentions that word, immediately a scenario where a learned, religious man stands before an audience or a congregation and gives a public address based on a religious text. However, using The New International Webster’s Pocket Reference Library Dictionary, I found that there are four definitions to the word ‘preach’.
The first definition is ‘to deliver a sermon’. No big surprise there… The next three definitions do shed a little more light to the subject at hand. The second definition states that to preach is to ‘give advice and urge a course of action’. I think this is an effective definition as it does give us a format on which to base our sermons on. Too many times from the pulpit, I have heard many wonderful, thought-provoking sermons that stir my spirit and faith, but the preacher did not leave me any practical steps in which to inculcate his message into my daily life. I think a sermon should be able to give practical advice that is underlined by a course of action.
The third definition of preaching is that it is to ‘advocate or recommend urgently’. This is also appropriate because, often, a preacher would find himself in such a situation in which he has to advocate Christ and to recommend urgently that someone find himself under the grace and love of God.
The fourth definition states that to preach, one ‘proclaims or expounds upon’. Preaching is indeed a proclamation of something that should be based upon the Bible. Preachers definitely need to base their preaching or to expound upon the Word of God.
But of all the definitions of preaching, the one I like best comes from St. Francis of Assisi. In regards to the Judeo-Christian idea of preaching the message of Jesus Christ in fulfilment of the Great Commission, St. Francis said that we ought to ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words”. So, for Christians, preaching is not only what we say, but also rather, HOW we are seen saying it. As many communicators have come to find, people learn and receive by observing the non-verbal cues in a communication encounter. Simply put, preaching is “talking the talk and walking the walk”.
Therefore, in summation, preaching is essentially ‘a public address that advocates a life changing message based on the Word and Work of God that is seen in our lives in its entirety’. This, I would feel is the what preaching is to me, and based on it I would mould my preaching towards this goal. To essentially ensure it is life changing and that it can be seen as a living truth or as I put it, that “My mouth will preach the message of the Cross and my life will live the message of the Cross”.
“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
I Corinthians 2:1-5
I wrote this as an assignment for a class I took in college, “Introduction to Preaching”. The verse, I Corinthians 2:1-5, defines what preaching really is for me: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Copyright © September 1999, Wong Giok Leigh. All Rights Reserved.