Maturity and Preaching

This post is part of a monthly synchroblog. The topic of this month’s synchroblog is “Maturity in the Light of our Faith”.

There are at least three parts to preaching. The first part is the preparation for preaching, the second part is the act of preaching, and the third part is listening to preaching. In today’s Christian life it is hard to find a place that does not encourage people to preach and people to listen to preachign. So, today I would like to discuss how each of these parts of preaching reflects on and affects our maturity as Christ followers. I am going to ask a few questions that I’ve thought of… questions that I’m thinking about. I will not answer these questions, I hope to get some conversation going about them.

Preparation for Preaching

I have prepared for preaching, I have attended many Sunday morning meetings where there was preaching, I have attended school where I was told how to prepare for preaching, I listen to preaching on CDs and the Radio, I talk about preaching with my friends and family. I’m not saying this to boast, I’m saying this so you understand where I am coming from. Of course, my experiences may differ vastly from others with similar experiences, but I have a feeling any difference will be purely semantic when it comes to how preparation for preaching reflects on and affects our maturity.

There are usually several things a preparer does when preparing for preaching.

1) Prayer that God will speak to him
2) Study a particular passage
3) Study what other commentators say a particular passage means
4) Study similar passages via a lexicon or other commentators
5) Put it all together for your listeners.
6) Practice, Practice, Practice…

None of these things are necessarily bad or wrong. In fact, if someone came up to me tomorrow and said, “I want you to preach two Sundays from now,” I’d pretty much follow this little outline (give or take a few things). To be perfectly honest, sermon preparation is really just glorified Bible Study – in our context it usually comes with compensation.

My questions are these: Does doing these things make you mature? Does doing these things mean you are mature? Does doing these things increase your maturity?

The Act of Preaching

Recently I saw a video of John Piper called “The Gospel in 6 Minutes“… to be honest it was really the gospel in a few seconds with an illustration and a lot of the word “never” – but that really isn’t my point. In this video John Piper said this, “You never outgrow the need to preach to yourself the gospel.”1 This quote got me thinking about the need to preach to ourselves… and the need for us to preach to other. It made me wonder about how the act of preaching reflects on and affects our maturity. In most traditional churches there is one man who does the preaching, often times called the Pastor. He is usually considered to be very mature. But sometimes, he will ask someone else to preach, perhaps a deacon or a seminarian. To most the act of preaching means that you have reached a certain maturity level. There is a hierarchy built into our thinking – levels of maturity if you will.

This is how I understand the hierarchy:

1. Layman
2. Layman who serves in some capacity
3. Layman who teaches
4. Layman who preaches
5. Deacon
6. Preacher
7. Pastor

I’m not saying that I agree with this hierarchy, this is simply how I understand it. If you were to corner me, I’d have a much different hierarchy, but this is what I believe others traditionally see in the church.

My questions are these: Does preaching make you mature? Does preaching mean you are mature? Does preaching increase your maturity?

Listening to Preaching

As normal church-goers we are always encouraged to listen to “good” preaching (among other things). We are encouraged to order CDs from the big named preachers, listened to Christian radio which has preaching, and even join churches where there are properly trained men to preach. There is actually a hierarchy built into this thinking as well. The more preaching you expose yourself to the more mature you are considered.

Consider this layman:

1. Goes to Sunday morning service
2. Does #1 and goes to Sunday School
3. Does #1, #2, and goes to Sunday evening service
4. Does #1, #2, #3, and goes to Wednesday evening service
5. Does #1, #2, #3, #4 and listens to preaching on the Radio or on CD.
6. Does #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 and watches preaching on TV or DVD.
7. Does #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6 and reads biographies about famous preachers.
8. etc., etc., etc.

By the way, I think this list also leads into the list for the Act of Preaching.

My questions are these: Does listening to preaching make you mature? Does listening to preaching mean you are mature? Does listening to preaching increase your maturity?

Before you answer any of these questions, consider these three verses from Scripture:

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. – Hebrews 6:1-3

Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. – 1 Corinthians 14:20

For everyone who partakes {only} of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.- Hebrews 5:13-14

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Here is a list of bloggers who are taking part in this month’s synchroblog on the topic “Maturity in the Light of our Faith”:

Phil Wyman at Square No More with “Is Maturity Really What I Want?
Lainie Petersen at Headspace with “Watching Daddy Die
Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head with “what’s inside the bunny?
John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith with “Long-Wearing Nail Polish and Other Stories
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse with “the future is ours to see: crumbling like a mountain”
Bryan Riley at Charis Shalom
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church with “Maturity and Education
KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent with “Putting spiritual infants in charge
Bethany Stedman at Coffee Klatch with “Moving Towards True Being: The Long Process of Maturity”
Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill with “Old Enough to Follow Christ?
Joe Miller at More Than Cake with “Intentional Relationships for Maturity
Jonathan Brink at JonathanBrink.com with “I Won’t Sin”
Susan Barnes at A Booklook with “Growing Up
Tracy Simmons at The Best Parts with “Knowing Him Who is From the Beginning
Joseph Speranzella at A Tic in the Mind’s Eye with “Spiritual Maturity And The Examination of Conscience
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes with “vulnerable maturity
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules with “What I Wish The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa
Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content
Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and Stuff with “The Foundation For Ministry and Leading
Kai Schraml at Kaiblogy with “Mature Virtue”
Nic Paton at Sound and Silence with “Inclusion and maturity
Lew Ayotte at The Pursuit with “Maturity and Preaching

Comments

  1. For the most part, I think that modern preaching is a demonstration of knowledge and training, not necessarily a demonstration of spiritual maturity. I think that discussion and response to others is a better measure of spiritual maturity. Also, knowing when to keep silent (instead of always talking) is a sign of maturity.

    So, to answer your questions, I do not believe that preparing, delivering, or listening to a sermon is an indication of spiritual maturity.

    -Alan

  2. I am not a big fan of modern preaching – like Alan, I believe that conversation is more beneficial – however I would like to say that I believe that most of the stuff that God uses to transform us are things that are flawed – thank goodness that our imperfect knowledge, ways, theology, activities, lives etc. don’t stop him from his work in and around us.

  3. Nice to make your acquaintance.

    Thousands listened to Jesus, and yet they did not become mature.

    People in the churches listened to Paul teach and they read his letters, and many did not mature.

    It seems to me that no matter how “good” preaching is, not matter how many “conversations” we have, none of it will, in and of itself, will lead to maturity. In fact, it is the Spirit who lives in us, who teaches us and uses those who are gifted to help bring us to maturity.

  4. Alan

    I agree, I know exactly how to prepare a traditional sermon. But that by far makes me mature… and I’ve known many people who were immature but preached every Sunday morning. I think what has happened is either of two things. A) Mature people are people who usually do those things, and therefore we believe that people who do those things are mature (which is an error in logic) or B) We are taught to believe that doing those things make you mature, so by doing them maturity is applied to the person. Perhaps a combination of both?

    Liz

    Welcome to my blog. I don’t believe you’ve commented her before. I also agree with you, God has used and hopefully will continue to use the imperfect. I wish we were better at understanding and recognizing the imperfect though… I think that would please God.

    Joe Miller

    You are 100% correct. I am a big fan of conversations before preaching, but neither lead us directly to maturity – it is only the spirit working within us that does so. But, I believe the spirit has an easier time working during a conversation with multiple Christians, than he does during a speech by one.

    Thanks everyone for the great comments!

    God’s Glory,
    Lew