Sunday Morning Pulpit: Preaching or Teaching?

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I recall a short conversation I had with another pastor over a month ago. In the conversation, he commented that preaching is not the same as teaching and vice versa. After pouring some thought into the issue, I now clearly agree that the two are different. Preaching seeks to convey the good news (i.e. salvation by grace through faith in Christ) to people in the hopes that they will respond with repentance and faith. Teaching, on the other hand, contains elements of instructing, correcting, and developing people to become more like Jesus.

On a Sunday morning, do we preach or do we teach? Most churches almost exclusively refer to whatever happens at the pulpit as preaching. “Who’s preaching today?” seems to be THE question to ask on Sundays. But we do have to admit that some preaching actually looks more like teaching and most congregations find that perfectly acceptable. So what exactly do we accomplish on Sunday morning? Do we preach or do we teach? Some pastors unwaveringly declare that we preach the good news about Christ and nothing else really matters. Other pastors (by simply observing their messages) clearly teach people how to become better followers of Jesus. Which of the two do we accomplish?

I see no reason why we can’t accomplish both on Sunday mornings—preach the good news and teach people to become more like Jesus. Must we really separate the two at the pulpit? There are two reasons why I believe that both preaching and teaching can share the spotlight:

(1) You have both believers and non-believers coming to church.

Your audience composition already hints at the necessity for both. On any given Sunday, believers and non-believers gather together at your church. Preach to non-believers about the saving power of the cross and the forgiveness of their sins by God’s grace and through their faith. On the other hand, teach believers to live out their faith in ways that are pleasing to God such as willing obedience to Him and loving service to others.

(2) The Word of God accomplishes both purposes.

When you preach/teach on Sunday mornings, you do so (I hope) anchored on the Bible. The Scriptures become the authoritative source for whatever we say at the pulpit. The Word of God ultimately contains the good news of our salvation. We preach that good news to people every single week. But at the same time, the Scriptures are also beneficial for other things. Paul declared that the Scriptures are “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV84). Therefore, if you’re going to make use of the Word of God on Sunday, use it for both purposes: preaching the good news and teaching people to become more like Christ.

There doesn’t seem to be any good reason to choose one over the other. I believe both preaching and teaching can co-exist at the pulpit. In fact, Paul tells the young pastor Timothy to “devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13, NIV84). With that verse in mind, I believe that the two aspects can work in harmony in every single sermon.

In this blog, I will simply refer to whatever happens on Sunday morning as preaching since it’s the more common term. However, I always mean both preaching and teaching when I do.

Join the discussion: What do you think about preaching or teaching? Should Sunday be exclusively reserved for one or the other?

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See other preaching ideas here: Thoughts on Preaching

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4 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Pulpit: Preaching or Teaching?

    • I agree that there’s an element of zeal in preaching. However, I’m sure there’s more to it than that. A biology teacher can teach the art of dissecting frogs with great zeal. But I don’t know if we could really call that “preaching”.

  1. My American pastor grandfather always said, “Preaching is yelling and teaching is telling.” Lol I love that one! Another person said, “Preaching is motivational and teaching is educational.” That one probably explains it better than my granddad’s saying, but his saying goes along with the whole point about zeal.

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