Preaching is not easy. Paul told Timothy to preach whether folks wanted to listen or not. Preaching is tough today because preachers deal with people living in a scientific world and in a materialistic culture. If the truth be told we here in America are preaching to a pagan culture and to folks living up to their necks in that culture. One of the old preaching professors was working on the cusp of this great shift that was taking place when he wrote these words about preachers and his hearers and their response to his preaching. He wrote this in 1966, the year of my confirmation and already then there was the sense that the church was losing something, but what was hard to identify. He writes about the loss of focus the preacher might experience, “as he senses their (the hearers) slowness to react to his glowing affirmations from Scripture concerning God and everlasting life, he may feel constrained to make things logical, to use phrases like “it is only natural that,” “how can we do otherwise than,” “can you not feel in your heart that you must.” The answer is that it is anything but natural, it is easy to do otherwise, I don’t feel anything in my heart. As the preacher promises to strengthen the faith of people or even to arouse faith in God which they do not have at all, how wonderful that he is promising something which neither preacher nor hearer but only God can do. How wonderful if the preacher can stand before his listener as a man who sees with horror and pity the tragedy of unfaith and distance from God, who reflects the serenity and certainty of a man in whom God, not logic or demonstration or evidence but God, through the word of the work of Jesus Christ, has wrought the faith which he wants to share as a matter of life instead of death.” (Richard Caemmerer, “Preaching and the Recovery of the Church”, CTM March 1966 No 3)
That is a stunning and amazing statement and one of the ways that a preacher, in his own faith life can get to that place is through a contemplation of the blessed dead that have gone before us. Study the anchors of the church that laid the foundations of congregations who already, years ago, saw the church as a mission outpost in a hostile world and saw things through the eyes of faith.