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A MISSION THEOLOGY OF PREACHING
 

In this study we do not seek to distinguish missionary preaching from preaching in general sense.  To detach one from the other, and to limit a missiological understanding of preaching to one is to fail to see the essential task of preaching for which the Church is called.  We have calling to preaching ministry not just to speak people inside but outside of the church wall.  When we seek to reach the masses outside the church wall with Christian gospel, we come to recognize our need for missiological understanding of preaching.  The context of preaching may vary.  But preaching, in its essence, is a missionary proclamation.  Gustaf Wingren declares that kerygma in the New Testament is undeniably missionary preaching.  He says:

        The preaching in the New Testament gives us no information at all about the preaching that took places within the congregation.  The kerygma was itself missionary preaching, in Dodd’s phrase ‘the public proclamation of Christianity to the non-Christian world' (1960:47).

In Willimon and Hauerwas' term, it is conversion that every genuine preaching should seek for.  They say, “Our preaching to the unbaptized must aim for conversion rather than mere agreement, evangelism rather than apologetics” (1994:40).

        Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willow Creek Church, convinces us that there is a kind of preaching that attract non-Christians, keeps them coming back, and leads them to take the momentous step of following Jesus Christ (1990:24-25).  For instance, he urges the need  for 'developing sensitivity' viz. 'Understanding the way the non-Christian audience think.'  "As we learn the way non-Christians think and develop a genuine love for them, we can speak the words of Christ in a way they'll hear" (:29-31).

        Lesslie Newbigin support this argument from his cross-cultural perspective.  He observes that “the movement of the gospel from its articulation in the language and practice of Greek-speaking Communities” in the New Testament provides us with the model of gospel communication across a cultural frontier.  Expounding the twenty-sixth chapter of Acts,  he affirms that “The communication has to be in the language of the receptor culture.  It has to be such that it accepts al least provisionally, the way of understanding things that is embodied in that language” (1986:4-6). 

        The message of preaching is delivered across cultures.  It is delivered from the biblical to contemporary world, from the church to non-church culture, or from a culture to another.  Missiologically speaking, we need to build a communication bridge for the powerful communication of the gospel that incites conversion from the hearts of the hearers.

Missiological Understanding of Preaching from the New Testament Perspective

        There are some striking similarities between the preaching of the prophets and that of the Apostles: Both represented God, both spoke His Word, both understood God’s Word to be God’s deed.  Sidney Greidanus, however, notes one difference between the preaching of the prophets and that of the apostles.  Aside from the contents, the difference lies in the sources used for their preaching.  Whereas the prophets usually received the Word of the Lord usually via vision, dream, or audition, the Apostles usually based their preaching on what they had “seen and heard” (1Jn. 1:3).  The Word made flesh in fulfillment of the Scriptures.  As such, their preaching moved toward exposition of the Scriptures (1988:5-6).  In short, the prophets preached from revealation, the Apostles proclaimed from interpretation.

        With Gustaf Wingren, the Swedish theologian, the missionary motif of the Bible is highly emphasized.  According to him, the Word of God does not exist by itself.  It exists to be heard; it exists in order to be proclaimed to people.  A Bible sitting on a shelf is of absolutely no use.  The Bible’s word is useful and creative only as people read and hear.  The Word of God exists for people to hear (Jensen 1980:68).

        In Romans 10:15 we read, “And how can they preach unless they are sent?”   The two words ‘sent and ‘preach’ in the verse have missiological implications for preaching office.  The fact that 'sent' is linked with 'preach' elsewhere in the New Testament is no accident.  It belongs to the very nature of things.  Without commissioning and sending there are no preachers, and without preachers there is no proclamation.  True proclamation does not take place through Scripture alone, but through its exposition.[1]  Thus, in Luke 4:21, we see Jesus saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” as He began his interpretation of Isaiah in the synagogue.  God does not send books to men; He sends messengers (Friedrich 1965:712).  This indicates that the preacher is a messenger who's commission is to deliver the message he or she received and interpreted.

        Friedrich expounds that Jesus proclaimed what he exposed.  Jesus did not give theoretical teaching when He spoke in the synagogue.  He did not expound Scripture like the rabbis.  He did not tell people what they must do.  His teaching was proclamation.  He declared what God was doing among them today: This day is Scripture fulfilled (Lk. 4:21).  His exposition was a herald's cry.  His teaching concerning the coming of the kingdom of God was an address demanding decision either for it or against it.  Hence, His preaching was very different from that of the scribes at synagogue worship (:713).
 

Preaching as a Cross-cultural Communication

        Grant r. Osborne observers that what missiologists call “contextualization” is identical with what homileticians call “application.”  He defines contextualization as that dynamic process which interprets the significance of a religion or cultural norm for a group with a different cultural heritage.  At the heart it entails cross-cultural communication (1991:318).  This implies that preaching is a cross-cultural communication, or in a dynamic sense a missionary proclamation.

        Osborne maintains the preacher/missionary has the dual role first as interpreter and then as Proclaimer (1991:325).[2]  Figure 1 is the illustration of the preacher/missionary’s dual role between the biblical text and the culture of the message receptor.

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Figure 1


The Bible's Correspondence to Human Needs

        One of the major missiological motifs of preaching is human needs.  Preaching is more than communicating across cultures.  Preaching is addressed to the audience in their human needs.  The bilbical message is relevant to it.

        Historically, in English Puritanism we find a classical example of preaching to the human need. Their anthropology accented man's total depravity. Ever since Adam, all the Puritans proclaimed, man has been a slave to sin. Not only ignorance of the divine will, but also obstinate perversion from the divine way makes up the human character. Adam's sin left man's nature died. This, however, did not destroy man's rational and volitional faculties. In these God's image remains imprinted. To men's natural faculty God addresses himself in the book of nature and of Scripture (Rooy 1965:310-311).

        Gustanf Wingren perceives that the Word of God is in dynamic relationship to human needs. He asserts that preaching is not aimed at self-sufficient human life seeking to add something religious or spiritual to it. We come to God's Word as found and conquered human beings in order to hear the word which sets humanity free. We come to hear the word that gives us our human existence. To be human is to hear God's Word that creates us, recreates us and sets us free for human life (Jensen 1980:68).

        Wingren attempts to grasp the meaning of the Word of God in relationship to human existence. In his mind human life is less than human because it is conquered life. His view of sin is that our lives are half captive by alien and demonic powers. Captive and conquered human nature needs to hear the word of Jesus, the word of cross and resurrection. It is the word of Jesus that sets it free and restores human life. The Word Jesus addressed to people in his earthly ministry set them free from their captivity to sin, blindness, deafness, death, etc. We hear and proclaim that same word today. Our experience of captivity is fundamentally the same as that of Jesus' hearers. The word of freedom he spoke to them, therefore, strikes our ears in the same way. Preaching brings that word of Jesus which releases us from captivity and restores us to natural human life (Jensen 1980:70-71).

        In fact, the authority of the Bible and its correspondence to human need feature the foundational principle of G. Compbell Morgan's expository method. This principle quests the interrelationship of the Bible to the human situation. The expositor of the Bible acts as an intermediary between the wells of truth and the thirsty multitude. Without the water's suiting and satisfying that thirst, there would be no need for the bucket to draw it. This principle of correspondence underlies Morgan's expository work. And this explains why he could have so powerfully reached and touched the hearts of his flocking audiences by his preaching and books. As Wagner remarks it, "This correspondence of the Bible is first to the need of the race, lost in sin, and even more to the regenerated soul" (1957:36-42).
 

The Relevance of Biblical Message

        Many have pointed out the cultural gap between the audience of the biblical world and the audience of modern world. Sidney Greidanus, however, draws our attention to some common features between the biblical and modern world, that there is a continuity between biblical and modern life experiences. He discusses it:

The holistic interpretation in light of the universal kingdom history is crucial for relevant contemporary application. The holistic interpretation makes us aware of the fact that we today live--albeit at a different stage--in the same history as did the Israelites of old. Hence there is not an unbridgeable gap between then and now but a definite continuity: the Ancient Israelites were involved in the same struggle for the coming of God's kingdom as we are today; their needs and obligations were very similar to ours (1988:100-101).


Greidanus asserts that preachers are not called to make a text relevant. He holds the view that the preaching-text is relevant. The task of the preacher is, therefore, not to make the text relevant but to show "the relevance already inherent in the passage (1988:157-158). As Kristen Stendahl puts it, "They should get deeply enough into the text and its original situation and intentions to find its relevance" (1983:307).

        Affirming that the text is relevant, Greidanus admits that the problem of preaching still remains. He says, "For in transferring a relevant message from the past to the present, preachers will need to cross the historical-cultural gap that separates the world of the text from our contemporary world" (1988:158).  With Karl Barth, preaching is the ministry of Word to expound a biblical text in human words and make it relevant to contemporaries by bringing God's redemptive message (1991:44).


Conclusion

        There is a missionary calling in the office of preaching.  Preaching is the public proclamation of Christianity to the non-Christian world.  It is addressed to the unbaptized, it speaks to human needs.  In this chapter, we have seen that missiology of preaching seeks to build a bridge for powerful communication of the gospel that incites conversion from the unbelieving hearers. 

        Because we preach across cultures--from biblical to modern days, from Christian, to non-Christian world, from one to the other culture--we will need contextualization for our preaching.  It means that preachers need to interpret the gospel message of the biblical text in their own contexts. 

        But there is also a continuity in Christian communication.  The historical and cultural contexts of preaching may vary.  But one thing remains the same:  The biblical message address the universal human needs. Preaching is not aimed at self-sufficient human life seeking to add something religious or spiritual to it. We come to God's Word as found and conquered human beings in order to hear the word which sets humanity free. We come to hear the word that gives us our human existence. To be human is to hear God's Word that creates us, recreates us and sets us free for human life.  


[1] Cf. The Puritans said that, in faithful preaching, God Himself is preaching and a man is giving a true exposition.  Fore more discussion, See D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origin and Successors. (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), Pp. 1987:379-380).


  © This article is an excerpt from Kim, Dae Ryeong's manuscript for a paper.