Preaching is first mark of a true church, Mohler tells seminarians

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Biblical preaching is central to the task of the church of Jesus Christ, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said during the school’s annual spring convocation Jan. 31.

“Preaching is the first mark of the authentic church, the essential mark, the mark without which the other marks do not matter,” he said. “... Where this mark is not found, there is no church.”

Preaching from Colossians 1, Mohler told seminarians that while not everyone is called to be a preacher, everyone is called to understand the importance of preaching and ensure that faithful Gospel proclamation is carried out in churches.

Preaching is so important that the preacher must be willing to suffer to advance the proclamation of the Gospel, he said.

“Every single Christian pastor ought to be ready and willing at a second’s notice to say, ‘I can put up with virtually anything if I get to preach,’” Mohler said, adding that preachers should rejoice in sufferings when they open the door for preaching opportunities.

One difficulty of preaching is that frequently it produces no visible response in the congregation, he said. But preachers should not become frustrated at a lack of visible response because the Word of God often works silently in people’s hearts in ways that are undetectable to the eye, Mohler noted.

“The Word of God goes in and does surgery that the hearer does not even immediately recognize is taking place,” he said. “It’s in the mystery of the preaching of the Word of God, accompanied by the Spirit, that the believer is conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ in the silent, invisible surgery of the soul.

“If you want quick results, you’ll be tempted to do something other than preaching. If you want instant gratification, you’ll look at some other form of programming or you’ll get excited about some other dimension of ministry at the expense of preaching. But if you want to build Christ’s church and if you want to see Christ’s people conformed to His image, preaching is the indispensable mark of the church.”

If a preacher never experiences conflict because of his message, it is likely that he is not remaining faithful to the message of Scripture because God’s Word confronts sin and offends at times, Mohler said. Preachers should not fear negative reactions when they admonish congregations with biblical truth, he noted.

“If everyone agrees with you, you’re not preaching the Word,” Mohler said. “If you have no controversy in your ministry, you should take great care to make certain that you have not become a court preacher to some earthly power, no matter how innocuous that power may appear.”

The content of Christian preaching is the Gospel -- a message that mysteriously causes hearers to set their hearts on the hope of glory, he said. To preach the Gospel requires diligence and a dedication to show how every verse of the Old Testament and New Testament is fulfilled in Christ, Mohler said.

“Too many preachers do not see the big picture,” he said. “They’re working out of one little corner of the great canvas of the Gospel. Here the plan of God is seen only in the microscopic angle. It is the preacher’s responsibility to deal with every single word of the text but always to go from every single word of the text to the great big picture of God’s plan, of God’s purpose, of God’s church, of God’s truth, of God’s Gospel.”

Faithfulness to preach the entirety of Scripture will result in proclamation of truth, correction of errors and teaching of believers, he said, noting that such a task requires the preacher to believe in the inerrancy of God’s Word.

In this life preachers may get to see examples of how their ministries changed lives, but in heaven they will see the full picture, Mohler said.

“I think one of the greatest blessings that will come to God’s people, and especially to God’s servants of the Word, is to be in glory and to find out that the ministry reached people you never knew, faces you never saw and lives you never even knew you touched,” he said.

The importance of preaching demands that preachers, churches and seminaries ensure that all of their activities further the cause of Gospel proclamation, Mohler said.

“Remember that this is why this institution [Southern Seminary] stands -- not in order to confer degrees and to teach courses and to accredit professionals, but to train preachers and teachers of the Word of God who will go out to take this Gospel.”


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