Why Preaching?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the longtime pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England, described preaching as, “The highest, the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.”[1] I share Lloyd-Jones’ lofty assessment of preaching. The call to preach is a sacred one, and the task of preaching should be undertaken with clarity, conviction, and passion.

It is easy to see that the modern pastor wears many hats. Yet, within the context of the local church, I believe preaching is the pastor’s preeminent responsibility. Preaching is his indispensable task, his most paramount duty, and his most consequential and urgent job assignment. For the pastor, preaching is priority #1.

What is more, it is not just that the pastor must preach, but that he must preach the Word. This is best accomplished through biblical exposition. But, before we get there, we must ask the important question of “why preaching?”

 The determination to preach the Word is first a theological commitment. We preach the Word because the Word is true, authoritative, and life-giving. Scripture is replete with this self-attestation. For instance, consider 1 Peter 1:23–25:

For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, {that is,} through the living and enduring word of God. For, all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which was preached to you.

Similarly, James testifies, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures” (1:18).

These passages teach us that the Lord works sovereignly in the heart of the hearer by His Spirit and through His Word. Believing this Word-Spirit dynamic is a theological commitment, and thus pushes one toward biblical exposition. As Lloyd-Jones observed:

The ultimate justification for asserting the primacy of preaching is theological. In other words, I would argue that the whole message of the Bible asserts this and drives us to this conclusion. I mean that the moment you consider man’s real need, and also the nature of salvation announced and proclaimed in the Scriptures, you are driven to the conclusion that the primary task of the church is to preach and proclaim this, to show man’s real need, and to show the only remedy, the only cure for it.[2]

Lloyd-Jones is right, and that is why preaching is a consistent theme throughout Scripture and a consistent practice throughout Protestant Christianity.

A Consistent Theme Throughout Scripture

God sent forth the prophets of old to preach. The Gospels tell us “John the Baptist preached repentance.” Jesus, too, “came preaching.”

At Pentecost, in Acts 2, the church was birthed through Peter’s preaching. Throughout the book of Acts, the Apostles preaching upended the world and fertilized the church. The office of deacon was formed to facilitate prayer and the ministry of the Word. Paul customarily went to the synagogue and reasoned from the Scriptures.

In I Timothy 3, the elder must be “able to teach.” In I Timothy 4, Paul tells Timothy, “Until I come give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to preaching.” And, of course, Paul’s final charge to Timothy is to “preach the Word.”

Most persuasively, Paul’s airtight logic in Romans 10 reminds us how high the stakes truly are—it is through preaching the lost are saved. The apostle writes,

For whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then
will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Romans 10:13–15)

Therefore, it is clear from Scripture why we must preach, but this is also clearly displayed in church history.

A Consistent Theme Throughout Protestantism

The structures, functions, and history of the church—especially post-Reformation—reinforces preaching’s centrality. The men who have most mightily advanced the church and shaken the world have done so through the pulpit.

As Protestants, our churches remind us of this reality as well. Our architecture places the pulpit front and center in our houses of worship. Our liturgy features preaching as the climactic point in our order of worship. Our jargon even reinforces the centrality of preaching (or at least it used to). Pastor search committees were once called “Pulpit Committees.” A call to the ministry was a “call to preach,” and the pastor was often called simply “the preacher.”

The answer to “why preaching” is not a mystery, but one that is clearly attested in both Scripture and church history alike. Therefore, as we assess the pastorate, let it be said of our pastors that they are first and foremost preachers.


[1] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971, 9.

[2] Ibid., 26.

*This article is an excerpt from Portraits of a Pastor, by Jason K. Allen. This book is available for purchase through Moody Publishers and Amazon.*


topicsPortraits of a PastorPreaching

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