FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Matt Carter, pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, issued a challenge to students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to preach the Word of God expositionally if they want to see lives changed. Carter, a graduate of the seminary, addressed the topic during a chapel message, March 21.
Preaching from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Carter described the common pressure pastors feel to impress the congregation.
“You feel this earthly pressure to stand in the pulpit and say something intellectually stimulating or in a way people have never heard before, to be persuasive enough in your speech to get the people to flood down the aisles and make a decision for Jesus Christ,” Carter said. “Paul makes a statement and says, ‘That is not how I preach.’”
Carter pled with students to follow Paul’s example of preaching the Word of God.
"When you preach, is the star of your sermon going to be Jesus or is the star of your sermon going to be you?" Matt Carter, pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church
“Every single time you preach, someone is going to be exalted; somebody is going to be highlighted; someone is going to be in the forefronts of the minds and hearts of the people to whom you preach,” Carter said. “And the question becomes: When you preach, is the star of your sermon going to be Jesus or is the star of your sermon going to be you?
“If people walk into a church service and the greatest thing they encounter is you and your speaking ability, then they’ve just wasted 30 minutes of their lives and nothing will change. But, if they walk into that same service and in that time they encounter and experience the Word of the living God, then everything can change in their lives.”
Carter said expositional preaching—taking a passage of Scripture, explaining it to the congregation, and then applying it to their lives—brings with it the power of God.
“There’s a way that you can preach that will not bring forth a demonstration of His Spirit and His power. That’s scary to me,” Carter admitted. “The Scripture is making the statement that there is a way that you can preach where the Spirit of God does not show up in power.
“But there are words that you can preach that because they are inspired by the Spirit of God they possess the power of God—and they are not your words. They are not your stories. They are not your cool illustrations. They are not your applications. But it’s the Word of the Living God.
“There’s only one way that you can guarantee that your preaching will possess the power of God, and that is when you are preaching the Word of God.”
Carter planted The Austin Stone in 2002 and has seen God grow the church from 15 to more than 8,000 in the past decade. In addition to numerical growth, the church has been influential in the city of Austin and has sent members around the world to bring the Gospel to unengaged, unreached people groups.
“The faith of your people, the faith of your congregation cannot be built on a foundation of your wisdom and your cool stories. The foundation of your people’s faith better be built on the power of the Word of God, or we will not stand.” Matt Carter
“God has blessed our church in ways I could not have possibly imagined,” Carter said, “and it’s not because I am a powerful speaker. It’s not because I’m a great pastor. Because the truth be told is that I’m neither of those. But the content of my preaching is powerful because the content of my preaching is the living God.”
Carter addressed the growing hostility in America toward Christianity and the Gospel, noting that churches built on weak preaching will crumble in the face of opposition.
“Folks, our beliefs as Christians are going to be put to the test and are going to be challenged in the public arena in a way over the next 20 years that I think most of us are going to have a hard time even imagining right now,” Carter said. “The faith of your people, the faith of your congregation cannot be built on a foundation of your wisdom and your cool stories. The foundation of your people’s faith better be built on the power of the Word of God, or we will not stand.”
Carter concluded his message with the same charge Paul issued to the young pastor Timothy: “Preach the Word.”