As a whole, the church seems to have an inadequate theology on preaching. Preaching, we’re implicitly told, is standing behind a pulpit and delivering a three point, thirty minute sermon. All three features (location, methodology, and time) seem to be rather important in defining when a person actually preaches. Thus, when a woman stands somewhere other than the pulpit and “speaks” on a given topic for ten minutes, it is often permissible because “she just spoke from her heart.”
Of course, the truth is that none of these factors matter. It is the position of authority that is actually at stake. Some think, “Women can’t stand behind a pulpit and preach because they can’t be given authority.” The problem is two-fold. First, the Word of God is the authority, not the vessel who delivers the message. And second, standing behind a pulpit is only a form of preaching; it in no way defines it.
I love the story of the Samaritan woman found in John 4 because it reveals the power of an unsuspecting preacher. It’s an amazing story of a sinner who came to believe in the Christ she encountered at the well. She came to draw water, but left with living water that gushed up to eternal life (v. 14). Then, she went out and preached about the Savior!
This woman had ended her conversation with Jesus by saying, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us” (v. 25). And Jesus responds, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you” (v. 26). After this, the disciples show up, and the woman leaves and goes into the city.
While on her way, she was apparently processing Jesus’ response to her. For when she found some men she said, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” (v. 29). You can almost see the wheels spinning in her head.
The story picks up again in verse 39 with, “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’” This is the record of her message. The wording here is strikingly familiar and provides a glimpse into her own belief in Jesus. In verse 25 she had said that the Messiah will “proclaim all things to us.” Then she turned around and told the men that Jesus “told me everything I have ever done” (repeated again in v. 39). The former was rooted in the Samaritan’s belief that the Messiah Moses spoke of (Deut. 18:15-18) would teach the people “concerning all things.” Initially, this very thing seemed to have caused her to doubt that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. But the jaw dropping knowledge Jesus possessed about her personal life seemed, in the end, to convince her of his divinity.
This is apparent because after her conversation with Jesus, her preaching was persuasive enough to cause others to “believe” (v. 39). And due to the proclamation of this woman’s testimony, the Samaritans convinced Jesus to stay with them two days. The result was that “many more believed” (v. 41). Then they told the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world” (v. 42).
In just a matter of days, the Samaritan woman went from sinner, to convert, to preacher. And her testimony was so effective that others came to know the Savior of the world. Now that’s effective preaching!
All Scripture quotations are taken from the NRSV.