The legendary Dr. Adrian Rogers of Bellevue Baptist Church told about preaching a sermon one day about the Devil. After the service was over, a man came up to him and said, “Pastor, when you were preaching up there about the Devil, I saw the Devil very clearly.” A goal of preaching is to make people see the meaning of the text very clearly. Preachers and teachers must learn how to exegete the text. In the absence of exegetical training, however, one ought to study the exegesis of Bible scholars on a given text, before preaching it. Otherwise, his sermon will become shallow. The tragic results of unbiblical preaching are shallowness, scarcity, switching, and spiritual starved, scattered, split-level, stumbling, and slackened Christians.
Shallow preaching is preaching that lacks exegesis. It fails to explain the meaning of the text. It may inform, illustrate, and inspire. Yet it falls short of communicating the message of God—as He wants it to be understood (Neh. 8:7-8; Isa. 34:16; Luke 16:29; 24:27). Such preaching therefore lacks the authority of God. If the Word of God is not in the sermon, God is also not in it.
Shallow preaching reduces the sermon into a speech. It would be no different from the speeches delivered in a Rotary Club or Toastmasters meeting. The pastor would be shortchanging his parishioners every Sunday morning. They have come to hear the Word of the Lord. Yet what they listen to are words of men.
Scarcity of the Word
Superficial preaching is comparable to the scarcity of the Word in the time of the Judges. “And the word of the LORD was rare in those days” (1 Sam. 3:1, ESV). The word “rare” (Heb., yaqar) means, “be precious, be valuable, costly.”69 It functions as an adjective.70 Thus, the Word was prized because it was rare in those days.
What was the reason for its rarity? “There was no widespread revelation” (1 Sam. 3:1, NKJV). The root word for “widespread” (Hebrew, paraz) means, “to break through.”71 Yet in the Niphal stem, it actually means, “spread.”72 As a Niphal participle,73 it functions as an adjective. It describes God’s revelation as not spreading out. In the time of the Judges, no prophet was proclaiming the Word far and wide. It was in short supply.
Such deprivation of the Word may be due to God’s judgments. He may send a “famine . . . of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11, MKJV). God may also judge those who have failed to feed His people (Ezek. 34:1-10). If the preacher fails to proclaim the Word today, the Word will become scarce. Few will find it and, thus, benefit from it.74
Spiritually Starving Sheep
Superficial preaching will produce spiritually starving sheep. “Jesus was moved with compassion upon them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). The shepherd-less sheep figure is an Old Testament portrait of people who are “helpless and starving, lacking in spiritual guidance and protection, and exposed to the perils of sin and spiritual destruction.”75 (Num. 27:17; 1 Kin. 22:17; 2 Chr. 18:16; Ezek. 34:5) It is no wonder that Jesus “began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34). Neither miracles nor music can feed a hungry soul, unless the latter teaches the Word (Col. 3:16). Constant preaching and teaching of Scripture is the answer to spiritual starvation.
A spiritually starving church is prone to spiritual diseases. It will not attain spiritual health. It desperately needs the nourishing milk of the Word (2 Pet. 2:2). It calls for constant expository feeding of the Word.
69 TWOT, Vol 1, s. v. “yaqar” by John E. Hartley (ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke; Chicago: Moody, 1980), 398.
70 Alan Groves et. al, Hebrew Old Testament in Bible Windows CD.
71 TWOT, Vol 2, s. v. “paras” by Victor P. Hamilton (ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Walke; Chicago: Moody, 1980), 737.
72 Brown, Francis, Driver, Samuel, and Briggs, Charles, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament in Bible Windows CD.
73 Groves et. al, Hebrew, in Bible Windows CD.