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You’re Not Called to Preach

The young man was puzzled. He heard me and other panel members cite the inherent limitations of regular lectures and sermons. After we encouraged the audience to insert some experiential elements into their teaching, he raised his hand.

“But what about the biblical mandate to preach?” he asked.

Now I was puzzled.

First, I wondered how his concept of preaching confined itself to mere lecture. In order for preaching to be preaching, must it exclude everything that’s not one guy lecturing at a microphone?

Then I wondered about his assertion of “the mandate.” I told the audience that I didn’t conclude that “the mandate” of scripture was to preach.

Yes, Jesus instructed his disciples to go out and preach. But when I think of a “mandate,” I think a little bigger. I’d consider scripture’s mandate to be something big, such as “make disciples,” or “help bring people into a growing relationship with Jesus,” or accomplish Jesus’ Great Commandments: love God, love people.

Those are mandates with significant outcomes. And, as faithful followers of Christ, we need to find effective ways to pursue those mandates. That may include some preaching. But, ultimately, we’re not called to preach. We’re called to reach.

If we want to be effective at following the real mandates, and to be more successful at reaching people, at communicating, we would do well to look at the methods of the master communicator, Jesus.

Complete the Communication.

First, Jesus modeled a true understanding of communication. He knew that communication is not merely sending information.

In order for communication to happen, people need to receive and be transformed by the message. It’s Jesus’ Parable of the Sower.

I often hear preachers defend the flat lecture method as pure in its own right, armored with theological education, marinated in exhaustive sermon prep, and festooned with biblical truth. All of that is good, but if it doesn’t complete the communication process, it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

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Thom Schultz is an eclectic author and the founder of Group Publishing and Lifetree Café. Holy Soup offers innovative approaches to ministry, and challenges the status quo of today’s church.