Every pastor (this includes youth pastors, children pastors, worship pastors, etc…!) concerned about the gospel and preaching, should read Willam Willimon’s book, The Intrusive Word: Preaching to the Unbaptized. And, every believer should read Willimon’s book in order to rightly understand what kind of preacher and preaching they should have in their church or be looking for!
Willimon, the former dean of the chapel and professor of Christian ministry at Duke University, takes on the self-proclaimed “experts” who contend that sermons must be “practical,” “relevant,” “simple,” and “understandable to the unchurched,” etc… In his book, Willimon considers what it means to preach the gospel to the unchurched. He explores preaching as an act of evangelism in today’s church and demonstrates that “preaching in the service of anything less than a living, intrusive God is not worth the effort.”
Here are a few insights from his book:
“The gap that is the main concern of the evangelical preacher is the space between us and the gospel. Theology, rather than style, rhetoric, or method, is our concern.”
“…there is much atheism lurking behind some of our preaching, pastoral care, and church administration. Atheism is the conviction that the presence and power of God are unessential to the work of ministry, that we can find the right technique, the proper approach, and the appropriate attitdue and therefore will not need God to validate our ministry…We must learn to preach again in such a way as to demonstrate that, if there is no Holy Spirit, if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then our preaching is doomed to fall upon deaf ears. Our preaching ought to be so confrontive, so in violation of all that contemporary Americans think they know, that it requires no less than a miracle to be heard. We preach best with a reckless confidence in the power of the gospel to evoke the audience it deserves.”
“…I am arguing that bad preaching- preaching so anxious that ‘everyone gets it’ that it ends up expecting too much and saying too little- is often a factor of bad theology. We have so little trust in the power of the gospel, through the enablement of the Holy Spirit, to evoke the listeners that the gospel deserves, that we either simplify, simplify, reducing the gospel to a slogan for a bumper sticker, or else we poetically describe, describe, obfuscating the gospel with some allegedly ‘common human experience’ that is not the gospel. People live in the grip of stories that are not the gospel, stories that cannot generate the life for which they deeply yearn.”