Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.
Look down. Whatever you do, do not make eye contact. There he is with his sandwich board: “THE END IS NIGH!”
I have often watched the street preachers in Leeds with interest. They can usually be found outside Harvey Nichols, shouting through a loudspeaker about the impending judgement that will shortly be dealt out to the unaware shoppers. The fact that I have never seen anyone engage positively with them does not seem to dim their zeal.
In many respects, Jonah’s declarations are similarly unvarnished. He doesn’t even introduce his words as from the Lord. He simply tells them that the future does not look too rosy for Nineveh.
This naturally raises questions about the role of preaching now. In a world where we have countless things clamouring for our attention, how are we to effectively communicate and respond to God’s Word? If the earnest, tub-thumping of old is driving people away, are there new ways in which to express God’s challenge to us without resorting to blandishments or vapidity?
I came across a rather neat summary of what preaching should be about from Damian Howard, Jesuit Provincial: “Good preaching draws on what God is already doing in my life.” In my limited experience, the preacher should aim to fire the Christian imagination, giving the listener a sense of what it means to be God’s people in this moment. It involves proclaiming Scripture in a way that delights in God, creation and those around us, drawing us all on towards freedom.
What does effective preaching mean for you?
More importantly, how might you look to communicate God’s Word in your own life?