For a class recently, I had to read a bunch of items on the part of a worship service in which the Bible is front and center. This “section” of the service is called “The Proclamation of the Word”, or more generally, the “sermon” or homily”. I ran across this great quote:
The very act of preaching, in fact, sets up questions and problems. Most people no longer understand the difference between preaching and other types of public speaking…. Many people think of a sermon as an occasion for being entertained, instructed, or inspired in matters of religion — hence the customary comment at the church door, “I enjoyed your sermon.” Nowadays, it is only congregations who have been engaged in a new way of thinking for a long time who are going to sit expectantly waiting for the Word of God to be spoken — for preaching, properly understood, is the good news that God preaches through human beings. Astonishingly enough, this is the method of communicating that God has chosen. This is an offensive idea; there are a hundred complaints to be brought against it. Most common is the objection, “How can anyone presume to speak the Word of God?” Or to put it another way, “How can any human being be so arrogant as to think he is a mouthpiece of God?” How indeed? It is a very good question. The validity or invalidity of preaching rests on such issues as these. (Fleming Rutledge, Not Ashamed of the Gospel)
I think Rutledge is right (and not just because she is an incredible preacher–all you complementarians could learn a thing or two from her!): people don’t seem to really see preaching as fundamentally different than any other lecture or other public speaking. Preaching is often (subtly and unspokenly) seen (or at least treated) as “mere” personal edification–similar to a book discussion or philosophical lecture or self-help conference.