by Abraham Cremeens
Last week, I introduced the topic of "preaching as the centerpiece of discipleship" with essential definitions and the first of five pursuits. This week, I want to explain how preaching and discipleship can work together on the same team for a more fruitful ministry. These five pursuits are packaged below in the acronym SMART. I started with the first last week (Preaching as the centerpiece of discipleship starts a conversation that continues during the week) and will pick up with the final four.
Preaching as the centerpiece of discipleship…
2. Models a life approach to God’s Word
The preacher not only proclaims God’s Word but also sets an example for digging into God’s Word. As he shares the gems he mined from God’s Word in his preparation, he shows the path for others to do the same. He may unpack a single word from the passage. He may acknowledge a cross-reference. He may suggest a biblically driven application. He may explain how a particular passage from the Old Testament points to Christ. All of these are ways that the preacher can model God-honoring Bible study that anyone can practice in his or her own walk with God.
3. Aligns with other discipleship efforts
Several of our Community Groups craft a discussion around the same passage as the sermon. This has led to a lot of health for us as a church. It creates a safe place where a community of people can help one another apply what God has said from his Word on Sunday morning. It is one way the sermon starts a conversation that continues during the week. But it is also more than that. During the time as a Community Group, each person can ask more questions, dig deeper, pray together, and hold one another accountable to needed course corrections. This is one example of how the sermon and discipleship structures can be aligned for a greater impact.
4. Refuses to be a silo
This is more the meta-concept of all five. When preaching and the preacher are considered a silo, then the sermon is a one-and-done event that stands alone and only reaches so far. A negative outcome, to be extreme, is that the sermon has value for approximately 40 minutes on Sunday morning, but then Bibles are closed and so are our hearts. We did our time. We heard a sermon. We checked the box. However, if preaching is the centerpiece of discipleship, then the culture of the church is to break down silos and instead find multiple ways to engage what the Spirit of God is doing through the sermon well after it is over. To use a metaphor, the flower that is planted on Sunday morning is watered and given light, and its scent is enjoyed all week long. But this requires a culture to be successful. We as an entire church family need to engage the sermon throughout the week in other discipleship contexts for it to continue to impact us well after noon on Sunday.
5. Turns the direction of the whole church family
In his book The Gospel-Driven Church, Jared Wilson says, “The preaching is the steering wheel of the church… Where it goes, the church will go.” The values of God’s Word must also be the values of Kossuth Street Baptist Church. As we preach God’s Word, we will steer the direction of Kossuth and help her align with God’s values. That means that our church culture, and our discipleship efforts specifically, will align to the values as expressed from the pulpit.
As a church, we must realize that and take advantage of it. To see preaching as the centerpiece of discipleship is to embrace preaching as the steering wheel in such a way as to purposefully guide all of our disciple-making efforts through the filters of God’s values as expressed in his Word.
If we want grace-filled discipleship, then we must have grace-filled sermons. If we want Christ-exalting discipleship, then we must have Christ-exalting sermons. If we want disciples who love God and love people, then we must steer the ship in our preaching.
"Preaching as the centerpiece of discipleship" is an important element of the culture we are building at Kossuth. We have a great road ahead, and I want to wrap up by highlighting a few practices we have pursued so far:
- We offer sermon notes, reading guides, and the Discipleship Memo to encourage and equip conversations after the sermon. Those are sent to all discipleship leaders each week.
- The Preaching Team aims to model within the sermon certain Bible study methods and approaches which church members can utilize in their own Bible reading.
- The Elder Team as a whole helps form the preaching schedule to identify issues and needs that can be addressed in preaching.
- We are exploring a church-wide Bible reading plan (for those who want to participate) that will be referenced and connected to on occasion during the sermon.
- We offer a key, provoking question at the end of the worship gathering for everyone to leave with.
This whole topic and these practices excite me greatly as a pastor. It is the whole church coming together around God’s Word and helping one another become more like Christ. Please participate in these endeavors and help us grow as a church in our mission. We need you to. Let’s be a community of disciple-makers toward the Great Commission together!