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
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’
in the verse
implications for preaching office. The fact that 'sent'
is linked with
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.
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). Figure 1 is
the illustration of the preacher/missionary’s dual role between the
biblical text and the culture of the message receptor.
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
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).
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.
 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.
The Puritans: Their Origin and
Successors. (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), Pp.