To be called of God to preach is both a privilege and an awesome responsibility. To answer that call sets a person’s life on a path to becoming a true student of the Bible. To follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the Master Preacher, is to preach life-changing messages. I remember one of my professors saying, “Preach for results!” If your library is like mine, you have books by great preachers, both classic and contemporary, who have informed you of different ways to sharpen your exegetical and delivery skills. My understanding of preaching has come from outstanding professors, faithful pastors, master preachers, and many years of practicing the craft. Thirtyfive years of pastoral ministry and thirteen years as a college professor have taught me some things about this task of preaching. However, I am still learning, growing, and working at the art and craft of preaching. The true purpose of preaching is to transform lives while also inspiring, encouraging, and equipping people to share biblical truths with others around them. We ought to preach sermons driven by biblical texts that enable listeners to understand and experience the passage, resulting in changed lives.
The first person transformed should be the preacher so that he or she comes to the pulpit having first been challenged and changed by the text. A preacher’s own experience with the text may be an impetus to the teaching event while he or she is also expecting God to do awesome things for others.
Prayer, good exegesis, and sermon composition are parts of the task. These tasks become meaningful when the Holy Spirit leads people to transformational experiences and opportunities to apply the biblical text to their lives.
An effective biblical sermon will answer three important questions: • What does God say in this passage? • Why does God want us to know this? • Now that we know this, what are we supposed to do?
As we adequately answer these questions, we’re enabled to prepare sermons that lead people to transformational decisions and actions as the Holy Spirit speaks through the Word.
While many agree that preaching should be transformational, it might be best to explain exactly what we mean by transformation. Let’s consider the following:
CONDUCT: When the Gospel is preached and people respond by faith to the gracious offer of new life in Christ, they are made new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). The change of heart will gradually lead to obvious changes in their daily lives.
CHARACTER: While conduct and character are intertwined, all people need to grow in grace and spiritual maturity. The Bible plainly reveals that we are “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). The development of Christlike character is a lifelong process that comes from hearing and obeying the Word of God.
BELIEF: Based on faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, people will continue to experience transformation in their conduct and character. Transformational preaching takes people deeper into the text, so their minds can be renewed (Rom. 12:2). It leads them to a greater doctrinal understanding. It challenges them to experience reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). The more people understand and believe the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, the greater the transformation.
A NEW HEART: The heart is the seat of our affections, revealing all that we love and value. It is where we develop our worldview and set priorities. The prophets of old predicted that God would give His people a new heart. God will take our rebellious hearts, which are inclined to sin, and give us new hearts inclined to love, obey, and serve (Ezek. 36:25–28).
Transformational preaching anticipates these dimensions of change and calls people to respond to God’s Word in total surrender and loving obedience. Our confidence is not in our own ability but in the saving, sanctifying, and keeping grace of God and the transforming power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.