Preaching as Worship

Editor’s Note: The following is a transcript of a testimony by College at Southwestern Dean Steven Smith on the importance of preaching, given during the MacGorman Chapel dedication service at Southwestern Seminary, Dec. 1.

I’ve been asked to share a brief word on the importance of preaching. It would seem if you were an outsider looking in that, in many of our churches, preaching is not seen as that important. You know, preaching is that which goes after the good part, the music, that you sit through to get to the next best part, the benediction. That is kind of the sense of what is going on in some of our churches.

However, music and preaching are both worship. Music is when God hears from us, and preaching is where we hear from God. The importance of preaching is simply that preaching is worship. It is for this reason that preaching can never be boring, because our God is not boring. A sermon that is boring misrepresents the God that we are trying to represent. The text is not boring so if the sermon is then we bring that to the text, God did not put that there.

Music is when God hears from us, and preaching is where we hear from God.

George Whitefield relayed the story of the bishop who asked the actor, “why is it that people go to your plays to hear things that are fake, but they won’t come to our church to hear things that are real?” The actor said, “well that’s simple, we actors speak of fake things as if they are real, and you preachers speak of real things as if they were fake.” But that is not preaching.

Preaching is re-presenting the God of the Word by faithfully explaining how He represented Himself in a way that we are lost in ever wonder, love, and praise of God. If worship is the missing jewel of the church, then preaching is its setting; a setting by that its theological parameters so that God can be glorified and worshiped to the highest. Jesus said in John 4 that true worship was to worship Him in spirit and in truth. I think applied to preaching that means at least three things.

First of all it means that preaching as worship must always be God-focused. Preaching is the act in which we explain the text of Scripture, and in the explanation of Scripture the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ points to Jesus, and Jesus always points to the Father. Preaching in its essence is a Trinitarian act. Second, preaching must always be text-driven. Preaching is not invention it is proclamation. Third, preaching can never showcase man. Someone said no one can at once think the preacher is clever and at the same time think God is mighty to save.

What we are asking is that our preachers, in great imitation of the Gospel, would crawl into the pulpit and die, and in that death other people may live. Perhaps the greatest metaphor for preaching the Gospel is the Gospel. We take a message of death to life and people watch that being preached by someone who is willing to die so that others may live. Therefore, may this never be a place to showcase  rhetorical device, rather may this be a place that when we explain the Word of God He brings brokenness, He brings contrition, He brings repentance, and ultimately salvation. And when we see that, we will worship.  Because preaching is worship. May this be a house of worship.

Steven Smith

Steven Smith

Vice President for Student Services at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Dr. Smith teaches in the School of Preaching and serves as Vice President for Student Services. He is married to Ashley and they have three children - Jewell, Sydney, and Shepherd.
Twitter: @StevenWSmith
Website: stevenwsmith.net
Steven Smith

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