A good friend told me recently he was trying to lower the bar when it came to preaching in his church. And I completely agreed with him.
My friend’s concern was that in his church – a sound, conservative evangelical, faithful Bible preaching church – Word ministry had become professionalised – certainly in the perception of most of the congregation – so that it was considered to be the preserve of the ‘suitably qualified’ member of staff. ‘Suitably qualified’ meaning having gone to Bible college, degree in theology, ‘gifted communicator’. Sunday preaching and even children’s work had become the domain almost exclusively of the ‘experts’ where ‘ordinary’ Christians feared to tread.
It wasn’t really the fault of the staff. In some ways it was just a result of their being very good at what they did. But it had created a priesthood of preaching and skewed expectations of ‘good preaching’. As Josh Moody wrote recently, ‘gifted communication’, brilliant structure and delivery is no necessarily truly (spiritually) powerful preaching; the apostle Paul seemed to intentionally avoid being a ‘gifted speaker’ (1 Cor. 2:1-5).
So my friend – not on the church staff team, never having gone to Bible college but a very sound, godly, mature Christian with years of experience in children’s ministry – was on a mission to lower the bar. Over-coming his natural avoidance of public speaking he was going to take up one or two opportunities and demonstrate that an ‘ordinary Christian’ could preach and teach the Bible, to children and to adults.
And I’m sure his preaching was brilliant. Maybe not highly polished. Maybe not rhetorically dazzling or theologically ‘clever’. But as I told him, I’d far rather have a humble brother who loves the church simply faithfully pointing to Jesus in the Bible and telling me how wonderful He is, than a ‘professional preacher’ giving me some flashy rhetoric or slick communication.
So when we talk about raising the bar, we’re not talking about the bar of homiletic dazzle or the bar of academic qualifications. We’re not trying to create an exclusive club of experts, a preaching priesthood. God forbid. When it comes to all that we want to lower the bar. We want preaching by humbled sinners to fellow sinners. Preaching that crucifies style and cleverness for the sake of clarity so that a 10-year-old can understand it. Preaching that lets the Bible speak in such a straightforward way that everyone thinks, ‘I could have found that.’ Preaching where you forget who preached the message and just know that you met with the Speaking God. Preaching for the sake of the church and the sake of the lost and the glory of Christ not for the sake of the preacher. Preaching that actually feeds starving sheep with the food of Christ. Preaching which is inextricably part of a whole gospel ministry of costly love. Servant preaching.
That’s what the next Raising the Bar conference will be about…