I love preaching. I study it, read about it, listen to it, and even do it myself! With all of that said, I am always interested in finding out from great preachers what they believe makes great preaching.
I recently asked this question (and a few others) to my friend Josh Moody. Josh is the Senior Pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL. He is the author of many books such as The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today, Authentic Spirituality: Finding God Without Losing Your Mind, and his most recent book (which I happen to be giving away to a handful of people this month: Enter by clicking here) How Church Can Change Your Life.
Brad: In your own words, what is preaching?
Josh: A friend, Robin Weekes, and I wrote a book together titled Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections. The definition of preaching that we used in the book was “preaching is the God-ordained means by which he meets with his people through his Word and by his Spirit in such a way that his people’s eyes are opened to see Jesus and be captivated by him.” The goal of preaching then, as Robin described in his chapter, is to captivate people’s hearts with the beauty of Jesus.
Brad: Who influenced your preaching the most over your lifetime?
Josh: Hmm, well. Jesus? Am I allowed to say that? Other than my Lord and Master…my father is a good preacher. I've learnt a lot from him. We were taken to hear Dick Lucas preach in the City of London as teenagers. Unforgettable experience. John Stott. I never heard Lloyd-Jones preach live, but his book on preaching has influenced me. John Piper’s The Supremacy of God in Preaching.
Brad: What is great preaching?
Josh: I think expository preaching is saying what the Bible says. I don’t much like the term ‘great preaching’ because I find it dangerous. I fear the slippery slope to pride or hubris – ‘that was a great sermon,’ and how easy it is to get puffed up, and how quickly can come the fall. I'd rather be faithful. I used to sneer at that: ‘that was a faithful sermon.’ Now I'm not sure there’s anything better.
But I know what you mean. I suspect the best preaching is the one where there is a clear Word from God from His Word direct to you. What you do with it depends on your own heart.
Brad: What encouragement do you have for those who are currently preaching?
Josh: When I was first a Senior Pastor there were so few people in the church that I almost didn’t bother to get into the pulpit. Seemed like there was not much point. A deacon at the church told me that it would encourage the people if I did get into the pulpit and preach. So I did. And I preached like there were a thousand people in the room, even though there were only enough for a couple of Bible studies. I think ultimately you have to preach for the audience of one. That’s so hackneyed I hesitate to say it, but what else is there to say? You preach to the people (not at the people) and you preach for God (not for anyone else, least of all you). I suspect there will be some surprises in heaven as to who preached ‘the best sermon.’
All that, plus if you are married, lean on your wife if you can.
Brad: What encouragement do you have for those who faithfully listen to the preaching of their pastor(s)?
Josh: Ah, here I think I have something to say. I love listening to preaching. My attitude is that as I go to church, I bring up all the things I want to hear from God on, leave them with him, and ask if He'd address what’s most important, or something else if that’s his will. I go, in other words, not to learn more information (though that’s always good, I suppose) but to hear from Him. If I do, I'm as happy as pie.
I am a Husband to Clarissa, Pastor at Liberty Baptist Church, reader of many books, and tweeter at @brad_merchant.