In Honor of Tethered Preaching–By John Piper
I consider the act of preaching to be one of the most important acts any pastor can perform.Â Preaching is more than just a written manuscript or a performance event.Â I is the act of representing God through the preaching act in which the Holy Spirit takes the feeble efforts of the preacher and communicates the Word of God to those who hear.Â I ran across this message from John Piper and was so impressed by what he said about preaching that I wanted to reproduce it here.Â In particular, notice his distinction between entertainment preaching and biblical preaching.Â The text can be found at:
In Honor of Tethered Preaching
John Calvin and the Entertaining Pastor
By John Piper September 17, 2008
The Bible tethers us to reality. We are not free to think and speak whatever might enter our minds or what might be pleasing to any given audienceâ€”except God.
By personal calling and Scripture, I am bound to the word of God and to the preaching of what the Bible says. There are few things that burden me more or refresh me more than saying what I see in the Bible. I love to see what God says in the Bible. I love to savor it. And I love to say it.
I believe with all my heart that this is the way God has appointed for me not to waste my life. His word is true. The Bible is the only completely true book in the world. It is inspired by God. Rightly understood and followed, it will lead us to everlasting joy with him. There is no greater book or greater truth.
The implications of this for preaching are immense. John Calvin, with the other Reformers, rescued the Scriptures from their subordination to tradition in the medieval church. The Reformation, let us thank God, was the recovery of the unique and supreme authority of Scripture over church authority.
Commenting on John 17:20, Calvin wrote,
Woe to the Papists who have no other rule of faith than the tradition of the Church. As for us, let us remember that the Son of God, who alone can and ought to pronounce in this matter, approves of no other faith but that which comes from the doctrine of the Apostles, of which we find no certain testimony except in their writings.Â (Commentary on John)
Calvinâ€™s preaching inspires me to press on with this great and glorious task of heralding the word of God. I feel what he says when he writes to Cardinal Sadoleto:
O Lord, you have enlightened me with the brightness of your Spirit. You have put your Word as a lamp to my feet. The clouds which before now veiled your glory have been dispelled by it, and the blessings of your Anointed have shone clearly upon my eyes. What I have learnt from your mouth (that is to say, from your Word) I will distribute faithfully to your church. (â€œLetter to Cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto,â€ quoted in J. H. Merle Dâ€™Augigne, Let Christ Be Magnified, Banner of Truth, 2007, p. 13).
For Calvin, preaching was tethered to the Bible. That is why he preached through books of the Bible so relentlessly. In honor of tethered preaching, I would like to suggest the difference I hear between preaching tethered to the word of God and preaching that ranges free and leans toward entertainment.
The difference between an entertainment-oriented preacher and a Bible-oriented preacher is the manifest connection of the preacherâ€™s words to the Bible as what authorizes what he says.
The entertainment-oriented preacher gives the impression that he is not tethered to an authoritative book in what he says. What he says doesnâ€™t seem to be shaped and constrained by an authority outside himself. He gives the impression that what he says has significance for reasons other than that it manifestly expresses the meaning and significance of the Bible. So he seems untethered to objective authority.
The entertainment-oriented preacher seems to be at ease talking about many things that are not drawn out of the Bible. In his message, he seems to enjoy more talking about other things than what the Bible teaches. His words seem to have a self-standing worth as interesting or fun. They are entertaining. But they donâ€™t give the impression that this man stands as the representative of God before Godâ€™s people to deliver Godâ€™s message.
The Bible-oriented preacher, on the other hand, does see himself that wayâ€”â€œI am Godâ€™s representative sent to Godâ€™s people to deliver a message from God.â€ He knows that the only way a man can dare to assume such a position is with a trembling sense of unworthy servanthood under the authority of the Bible. He knows that the only way he can deliver Godâ€™s message to Godâ€™s people is by rooting it in and saturating it with Godâ€™s own revelation in the Bible.
The Bible-oriented preacher wants the congregation to know that his words, if they have any abiding worth, are in accord with Godâ€™s words. He wants this to be obvious to them. That is part of his humility and his authority. Therefore, he constantly tries to show the people that his ideas are coming from the Bible. He is hesitant to go too far toward points that are not demonstrable from the Bible.
His stories and illustrations are constrained and reined in by his hesitancy to lead the consciousness of his hearers away from the sense that this message is based on and expressive of what the Bible says. A sense of submission to the Bible and a sense that the Bible alone has words of true and lasting significance for our people mark the Bible-oriented preacher, but not the entertainment-oriented preacher.
People leave the preaching of the Bible-oriented preacher with a sense that the Bible is supremely authoritative and important and wonderfully good news. They feel less entertained than struck at the greatness of God and the weighty power of his word.
Lord, tether us to your mighty word. Cause me and all preachers to show the people that our word is powerless and insignificant in comparison with yours. Grant us to stand before our people as messengers sent with Godâ€™s message to Godâ€™s people in Godâ€™s name by Godâ€™s Spirit. Grant us to tremble at this responsibility. Protect us from trifling with this holy moment before your people.
Â© Desiring God
By John Piper. Â© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org