I picked up a copy of John Stott’s preaching book, Between Two Worlds. It was published in 1982, but does not feel dated to me. Perhaps Indiana in 2012 is like England in 1982 when it comes to preaching and the life of the church.
At the heart of his book on preaching, Stott calls for two things: conviction and bridge-building.
First, he pleads for preachers to have conviction. Conviction about who God is and does. Conviction about the authority and inspiration of the Bible. Conviction about the need for preaching pastors in the life of the church.
Second, he summons preachers to be bridge-builders, connecting the Bible to the life of the people who gather to hear it read and expounded upon. He knocks conservatives for preaching the Bible without making any connections to the world in which people live. He knocks liberals for preaching the questions and concerns of the world without significant contact with the Bible.
While his second point resonates, it is his first point about conviction that hits most home for me. So much of the preaching advice and counsel I read these days suggests we need to start with an acute awareness of the doubtfulness of what we preach. The congregation gives the Bible no real authority, and certainly does not give the preacher any, so we must approach them at angles and lure them with promises that what we offer will make their lives better.
Stott argues counter to this. He writes that preaching must emerge from strong convictions about God, Scripture, the church, the pastorate, and preaching itself. If it does not, he writes, it is folly and arrogance.