Preaching is an act of worship, Shaddix says at Power in the Pulpit

Communications Staff — April 13, 2007

The purpose of preaching is not most fundamentally to answer questions or give people tips for successful living but to glorify God, pastor and author James L. Shaddix said April 2 at the annual Power in the Pulpit conference at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“If God’s Word is the primary reflector of God’s glory—that’s where we see Gods’ glory in high definition in the clearest way—then it follows that the preaching of God’s Word has to be aimed at that purpose,” said Shaddix, who serves as pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, Colo. “It has to be aimed at God’s glory.”

Speaking at the one-day conference on preaching along with Shaddix were Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Hershael York, Southern’s Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching. Shaddix is co-author with Jerry Vines of “Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons.”

Because preaching God’s Word is aimed at God’s glory, it is an act of worship, Shaddix said. But many believers wrongly view worship as including music only, he noted.

“In most of your churches, if you ask people what they think of when they think of worship, they will talk to you in the realm of music to some degree and in some form,” he said. “I think there’s a tragedy there because without meaning to do so, what ends up happening is we end up de-emphasizing, if not out and out overlooking or denying, the role of the Word of God in worship.”

Shaddix emphasized that the pastor of a church is always the primary worship leader.

“Pastor, you are the primary worship leader in your church for this reason: you are the one that has been assigned the responsibility of dispensing God’s glory through the right and accurate representation of his nature in the way you handle this book,” he said.

If a pastor fails to understand that the purpose of the Bible is to display God’s glory, he will also likely fail to understand the purpose of preaching, Shaddix said, adding that many preachers who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture “butcher” the biblical text by misunderstanding its purpose.

Common ways that preachers misuse the Bible are by treating as a book that answers every question people ask, acting like its only purpose is evangelism and teaching it as a how-to manual for living, he said.

“If God’s Word reflects His glory and preaching is aimed at the glory of God and in that preaching becomes an act of worship, then the purpose of your preaching is … aimed at this purpose right here before it’s aimed at anything else,” he said.

The test of effective preaching is whether listeners display God’s glory by becoming increasingly like Jesus over time, Shaddix said. He cautioned preachers to be intensely focused on their most important goal.

“Your role is not to answer every question people are asking,” he said. “And your role is not to give them a practical manual for every aspect of daily life, because there are an infinite number of variables out there that you’re not smart enough to unpack.

“But you can be an expert in one thing, and that is showing them the glory of God, which is the only thing that has the supernatural ability to transform them. And that’s a freeing thing. It takes all the pressure off, and it calls you to one particular focus.”

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