Faithful Gospel Preaching
Preaching the Word is God's ordinary means of converting men. It is also His primary means of building up believers in the most holy faith. Yes, there is a certain kind of preaching that's characteristically dry that only gives head knowledge (like DIY or 'how to') but does not touch the heart or enrich one's soul or transform one's thinking and life. One may call it a lecture.
I disagree, however, that preaching that's Biblical, textual (based on the text of the Scripture) and contextual (rooted in the immediate context of the text and in accordance with the overall message of the whole Scripture) is unimportant and irrelevant, unable to address the needs of ordinary people.
It is true that people in the pew have many felt needs. And these needs may somehow be addressed superficially by ‘practical preaching’ devoid of the gospel of Christ.
However, when people's essential human need is not met, that is, to be right and be reconciled with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, they will remain discontented and lost.
Many sermons today are no longer expository sermons. The man behind the pulpit may be good at connecting to people with their anecdotes and inspirational talk, but without the gospel, which is the power of God to save everyone who believes (Rom. 1:26), saving and edifying faith will not be there.
In preaching the gospel of Christ, faithful preachers do not shun from preaching hard, even controversial, doctrines in Scripture. Our forefathers in the faith were so moved by these hard but essential doctrines, such as God’s sovereignty in creation and redemption, the fall of man to sin, redemption in Christ, atonement by the sacrificial and substitutionary death of Christ, justification in and union with Christ by faith alone, repentance unto forgiveness, suffering for the sake of righteousness, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and other basic Christian tenets.
In understanding these doctrines, our ancestors in the faith can’t help praising God, serving Him with all their heart, soul and strength, living a life of gratitude, and pleasing Him in everything they say and do.
The precious gospel of Christ and the glorious thought of God have moved them to endure fire, sword, persecution, and many other forms of suffering to keep the Christian faith and to live and die for it. The book "Foxe’s Book of Martyrs" testifies to this.
Today we often hear about financial freedom or financial success or happy marriage and other similar practical topics or subjects without laying their Biblical foundation or disconnecting them from the Christian gospel and the sanctifying work of God the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Not that these issues are less important. It's just that these subjects are usually taught as user-friendly formula that one can use in order to achieve one's dream to make life easy or pain-free.
Worse yet, these talks tend to emphasize success and prosperity in life as if by his own wisdom and power man could achieve it by doing certain things that would oblige God to give in to his selfish desires and demands.
Of course, we need practical teaching but not at the expense of Biblical and doctrinal truths. If church members are being taught that financial success or winning the inner struggle is up to them, that all they need to do is to follow simple steps or press the right button in life, so to speak, and not ultimately be dependent on the sovereign will and power of God, then the church of Jesus Christ will be filled with many selfish, immature, and worldly people, ready to leave the church at the first sign of failure, stress, or disappointment.
Professing Christians who are unaware of the essential truths of Christianity on which these practical issues (such as marriage relationship, parenting, giving, prayer, stewardship, etc.) stand, will not grow deeper and stronger nor will persevere in the faith when the going gets rough and tough. Their knowledge of the Christian faith will remain shallow.
Faithful and persevering Christians, however, are deeply enamored by the grace and the glory of God in Christ in the gospel. They are well aware that right conduct springs from right doctrine. This kind of believers would be willing to "give what they cannot keep to gain what they cannot not lose," as missionary-martyr Jim Elliot once said.