6 Feb 2007

Is Preaching Folly?

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Kingdom, Ministry, Preaching

I don’t understand preaching, but I believe in it deeply.” (Ian Pit-Wilson).

My recent move from a wonderful congregation in Milwaukee to a wonderful congregation in Tucson has lead me to reflect on my role as a preacher and preaching itself. Just who am I? Just what do I think I am doing? Does anyone in our age really give a rip? Over the last several weeks I have come to formulate a series of questions that perhaps can be summed up in one single question: Is preaching … FOLLY? I have reached a “conclusion” of sorts like the grand old (wonderful) preacher of Ecclesiastes. This is my conclusion until I change my mind! Preaching is folly.

After ruminating on my life task I have identified four reasons why preaching is apparently folly. They are, in the order of importance to my mind:

1) The infinite gulf between the object of our preaching and the weakness of our lives. Is it not sheer folly for a mere mortal to stand before other mere mortals and insist he or she has a word from God? Surely the poet was speaking of preachers “Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail.”

2) The infinite gulf between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of our lives. When I stop to think about the unapproachable light that my God dwells in (1 Tim 6.16), I recognize the darkness of my own “life.” The temerity that must fill my veins to stand in the name of that holy God and speak, I cannot help but think this is folly.

3) The indifference of the world. This age is incredibly indifferent to preachers. Every Lord’s Day a person stands and announces that the world has been redeemed and that a Man has come back from the grave … but this age is so impressed it stays in bed!! Thus I see that compared to proclaiming effectively to my postmodern world, I am insignificant. Indeed, it would seem, foolish.

4) The inadequacy of my method and approach. That incredible message that many stay in bed not to hear is hindered by my insufficiency. Just how am I to communicate the wonderous gospel of grace? It seems that as soon as I figure out how to preach to the family … the family has changed and I am out of touch once again. And yet, it seems, that God uses our preaching to reach and touch and bless some. Is it not folly?

But “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Cor. 5.14) … but who is equal to the task?

Bobby Valentine

19 Responses to “Is Preaching Folly?”

  1. Messianic Gentile Says:

    I do not know what to say, in brief, about 2-4. But as to 1, I would say that if God speaks through one mere mortal to the others, then it is definitely folly. And I am confounded by it.

    Many blessings…

  2. Royce Ogle Says:

    And not only folly but foolishness! But! God has chosen by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe what the preacher says.

    You, with your best education, your best delivery, your best preparation, on your best day can do little for the kingdom. However, you plus God, with little training or much, with poor and halting delivery, and even with poor preparation can move wicked me to faith in God.

    The forgotten factor in preaching ministry is the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Can we hear Christ say to us “Wait until you are endued with power”? If those closest to him in life and work for 3 1/3 years needed to wait for the filling of the Spirit before they began ministry should we too not wait on the Lord until we too are filled with the Spirit?

    Only when the preacher is energized with resurrection power will the hearts of hardened sinners be “pricked” or “cut to the heart” and they will be converted.

    If we do what we do for God in the energy of the flesh we will get what the flesh can give. If we do what we do for God in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit we will get what God can give.

    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  3. poet_imp Says:

    Consider the folly of past preachers…

    Noah: Not a single convert… Saves humanity

    Moses: Millions of cranky, complaining Hebrews with very little concept of who God is, always messing up… lead them to the promised land, prepared for the coming of Jesus

    Jonah: Thought God was foolish… saved a city of chock full of sinners

    Peter: Simple, uneducated, unpolished fisherman… introduced the world to it’s savior

    I imagine that all of them thought that were unqualified, preaching to people that did not care, for a purpose they did not fully understand. God used all of these men to do amazing things in spite of their humanity.

    The world considers all that we do as foolishness. God, however, is able to take our folly, our weakness and use His strength to make wonderful things happen.

  4. Jim Martin Says:

    A good post and reminder of the readl power behind what we are doing.

  5. Joel Solliday Says:

    There is an incarnational aspect to preaching. Perhaps God could have by-passed the human channel to effect his redemptive purposes on earth or just e-mailed salvation to us, but he sent His Son in the flesh. Likewise, he by-passes other seemingly more impressive means and for some reason uses weak, fragile and fleshly vehicles like us to reach people. But we are NOT His only means, mind you.

    “Jesus said, ‘Let us go somewhere else… so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.'” Mark 1:38.

    Paul: “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” 1 Cor. 9:16.

    My brother is a fine artist and he is driven with a “woe to me if I don’t paint” sort of calling (google “Tim Solliday” to see some of his paintings). We need at least as much clarity in our calling.

  6. John Roberts Says:

    And the amazing thing is that God wouldn’t have it any other way – “so that no one can boast…”

  7. Stoogelover Says:

    And for those of us who do it, there are just enough positives to keep us in it. Good thoughts, Bobby.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Define the church. I use to stay in bed on Sunday mornings. Now, I listen to lessons all week long. I feel like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. Especially since I have been blessed with so many humble and passionate preacher’s just full of God’s spirit.

    Now I preach and teach as a witness to God’s hope at work, to my husband, my neighbors, homeless men in alleys, while I am fishing, swimming, cooking, or scrubbing toilets.

    Some of them may never come to the building. But we continue to water and watch slowly as precious lives come to life.

    By the way Bobby, my brother Mark just got out of prison. He met his 15year old daughter for the first time 2 weeks ago. I’m going to get to meet Christina, my niece and share Christ with her. The people that saw him through are people you taught. Your words did not fall on deaf ears, it just takes time to let the richness of God sink through to the heart.

    15years ago I had to boot my brother out. His girlfriend who was pregnant at the time, with Christina, decided to join him. All these years I’ve wondered where they were. Did I understand them or do enough? Was that choice right or wrong?

    It is my prayer when I reach the other side of eternity, that all those who taught me, get to stand at the golden gate. They get to be the first to meet and see people that they may not know but their words touched. Why? Because those who always came last should be first.

    I love you and your preaching because it is rich with truth. I still laugh when I remember an email your daughter sent me. I see so much of you in her. Than people ask where my joy come’s from. I get to share another story that bring’s hope into a hopeless world.

    God’s word never returns to Him empty. Because it’s simple, the Word is Christ and He has filled the whole universe with His spirit. Let satan and this world be damned and bound. You showed me the joy of living for Jesus!

    God Bless You and Your beautiful family!

  9. Messianic Gentile Says:

    Joel raises a good point in my mind. Preaching is image bearing. That is not folly. Is it? If it is, then that means I strive for stupidity.

    Many blessings…

  10. Anonymous Says:

    good leadership skills

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  11. Anonymous Says:

    Brother Bobby,

    I hope your move was a good one.

    Thanks for your article on preaching.

    I have often wondered about how arrogant we preachers can sometimes be when we think we SPEAK for God. I also think that is a very humbling thought if our heart is right with God.

    What would I do besides preach? I am compelled to do so because I believe I have been called to do so. It would be a sine for me not to so at present.

    Do not forget Berean Spirit.

    God bless,
    Gerry Parker

  12. Anonymous Says:

    A humble man who is willing to share hs qeustioning spirit can truly do a great deal in his service to his creator. People can “see” that you’re being real with them, that your not putting on airs with them.
    Concider a discussion that Paul had with a king (acts 26:26ff);
    ” I know that you have heard the stories, you are familiar with the facts.” “Do you truly think that in such a short time yo could get me to become a Christian?” “Sir, it is my desire that you become all that I am, minus these chains, of course!!” The text, of course doesn’t say that the king became a Christian, but it does imply that the king had respect for Paul.

    We would do well to have many more like you!

  13. Alan Says:

    Sobering words, Bobby.

    I am much reassured, however, by the reminders from Poet Imp!

  14. john dobbs Says:

    Bobby, maybe more preachers ought to express these things. Perhaps the congregation does not know the self-questioning that we go through … the way we consider what we are saying and wonder how we would react if it were being said to us… the shame of our own shortcomings as we present God’s Truth to people. And if we do not have these thoughts, perhaps we should avoid the pulpit. I do not believe it belongs to the self-assured, but to the grace-dependent.

  15. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Thanks John for the encouraging words.

    Bobby Valentine

  16. Bob from Tucson Says:

    Wasn’t it Paul who said “the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are BEING saved it is the power of God.” The longer I live in the shadow of that “foolishness” the less foolish it becomes. I, more and more, want/need to hear preaching about Christ crucified. Bobby keep preaching and may God increase your gift….. Bob

  17. Darin Says:

    Great post and great thoughts. Thanks to all.

  18. Brian Nicklaus Says:

    thanks bobby,
    I appreciate what poet imp added.

    much like the Qohelet, it all seems pointless, but that is from a worldly perspective of numbers and visible things.

    you didn’t write from discouragement (at least it didn’t sound that way) but that is a pitfall for every preacher because of the very things you listed

  19. elman Says:

    Let me just introduce to you what Peter said about his co-apostle Paul:

    II Peter 3:15-17 And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you, speaking of these things as he does in all his letters. In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures.
    Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability.

    Hi! In order to answer your other questions, I want you first to learn about the most sensible creature of this times, Bro Eliseo Soriano (known also as Brother Eli). He’s a Filipino whom we consider as the one prophesied in Revelation 1:3, blessed is he that readeth. You can throw any questions to him about the bible, and he will read to you the answer found in the bible (not man-made stories) immediately. You can try to have a sample of the questions answered already through clips and online feed at http://www.truthcaster.com or http://www.theoldpath.tv

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