Acceptable corporate worship is impossible without preaching the Word of God, Denny Autrey told nearly 300 students, faculty and guests during the spring convocation service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies in Houston Jan. 23.
“Far from being an alien intrusion into corporate worship, the reading and the preaching of the Word are actually indispensable to it,” said Autrey, the dean of the Houston school.
Autrey drew on the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians to drive home the priority of biblical preaching in a “global-ized culture.” He said there are many parallels between 1st century Corinth and 21st century America.
In its strategic location on a narrow isthmus with two navigable seaports providing international commercial opportunities, Corinth was a city of wealth, commerce, entertainment, religions, and wickedness and immorality, Autrey said.
“But what was evident in Paul’s day in Corinth is 21st century America: a global-ized world filled with wealth, entertainment, religion and wickedness as we have never seen it.”
It is because of these exact conditions that Autrey said preaching directly from the Bible has always been and will continue to be essential. Autrey said that Christ-centered, Bible-centered preaching was Paul’s solution for the church at Corinth.
“Preaching is what I would argue as the only hope for the church and our world today,” he said.
In the first couple chapters of 1 Corinthians and in several Gospel passages containing the sermons of Jesus, Autrey saw key characteristics of effective biblical preaching.
Biblical preaching is confrontational because life is confrontational, he said.
“Jesus came preaching, ‘Repent and believe,” Autrey said. “That is a confrontational message … Paul confronted the wisdom of the world, the Sophists of the day such as the disciples of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle … and the Gnostics of the day. … But Paul also confronted the weaknesses of the church (such as) divisions, selfish ambition, envy and strife.”
Autrey said effective biblical preaching must be centered around the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and exalt Christ in order to bring glory to God. Autrey warned that cross-centered, Christ-centered preaching will be controversial.
“Our post-modern, politically-correct culture rejects any absolute truth that makes an exclusive claim, but Paul without question makes that claim,” Autrey said. “Many preachers are fearful they might offend someone. But the reality is the message of the cross is offensive to the world and our Lord said it would be.”
Autrey concluded by charging the students never to allow anything to “divorce” preaching from worship.
“Our worship is poor because our knowledge of God is poor,” he said. “And our knowledge of God is poor because our preaching is poor. But when the Word of God is expounded in its fullness, and the congregation begins to glimpse the glory of the living God, they bow down in solemn awe and joyful wonder before His throne.”