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True Preaching: The Agony & the Ecstasy
True Preaching: the Agony & the Ecstasy

Geoffrey Bingham

by Rev. Geoffrey Bingham

Subject: Preaching

Book Code: 222

Media Code: LFS 39

Pages: 120 pp, Book

Pub. Date: 1988

ISBN: 0 86408 106 5

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True Preaching


I once heard that in a certain part of Great Britain a preaching competition or eisteddfod is held every year. 'Eisteddfod' means 'a confess of (Welsh) bards', so that the word may not here apply to a group of competing preachers. I was rather shocked by the idea, since true preaching can only happen as it is directly applied to a congregation which is assembled to hear the truth, and this, generally, in the context of worshipping.

Preaching is a calling long before it is an art. That is why Paul said, 'How shall they preach, except they be sent'? No one should take such an office upon himself. Nor should a preacher be a kind of prima donna in his congregation. The preacher is there to witness to the truth, and primarily the truth of God in Christ. He has first been met in his heart, so that his theology is of the heart—not that it must bypass the mind, for the mind is part of that heart.

Having myself preached for well over fifty years, I know both the thrill and pain of preaching. One always has to live the message or sermon before he delivers it, and this is 'the agony'. It may have some ecstasy when preached, but the agony can revisit. F. W. Robertson, the famous preacher of Brighton in England, spoke of 'black Monday', i.e. the day after the sermon when he worried about what he had' said, and also about what he had not said. The sermon is like Ezekiel's scroll which, when eaten, was 'sweet in the mouth, but bitter in the belly'. Being afraid to preach, or being weary of the stress which attends preaching, a preacher will find, nevertheless, that he cannot desist. The word of God is 'a fire in his bones', and he is forced to speak. Only then does he have relief.

A book such as this small volume ought to be read by all who attend sermons, as also by those who give them. Congregations should understand the joys and stresses a preacher encounters. They should know that they can encourage him by the very way in which they listen. It is seldom a preacher says nothing of worth. For his part he must learn best how to communicate the great message he has to give. He is, in fact, a walking, talking medium. His eyes, the movements of his facial features, his body language, with the posture and movements of his being, all make for communication, no matter what the substance of his sermon notes or ex tempore utterances.

It is said that preaching is a lost art. I think not. In business today we have a host of quite brilliant—if not always sincere—preachers. They are men who are out to convince and persuade listeners to their way of thinking. Columnists are often moralists. Even our singers have elements of preaching and moralism in their songs. We may be sure that the day of preaching is far from over. It has even been said that we are yet to hear true preaching—preaching at its best. This could well be true, for no matter how much a preacher is moved by the material of his sermon, he has yet to see God in a way which surpasses what he has seen of Him.

I hope then that we carry out the exercise of reading this book.* It should be able to help preachers and their congregations to understand the great privilege and responsibility of proclaiming the truth of the Living God. Preaching must be heart to heart, although always by means of the mind and its reasoning. This being the case, we pray for a new era in preaching, and a new era in hearing.

Geoffrey Bingham,

Coromandel, August, 1988

* This small book was originally Living Faith Study Number 39, and was given to a Masters' Class in October 1979.