Nearly six months ago now, the Lord called me to my first Senior Pastorate. At 29 years of age I already had some experience preaching, but certainly not on a weekly basis, let alone multiple times a week. This has proven to be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding aspects of this new season in ministry. Through trial and error I have landed on a system of preparation and delivery that I believe suits me best. Even still, the most important lesson I have learned in this transition is, sermon prep and delivery are not items to be checked off the task list of weekly duties.
This concept has been one I have dwelt on for some time now, but just last week it was confirmed when the pastor of our church’s Hispanic ministry shared the same thought. He said, “Pastor, preaching is risky business. You are dealing with eternity.” What a perspective to have, and what wisdom from a man who has been in ministry for over 50 years! As I have considered the incredible importance of preaching, I did a little research on the matter, and I have been enthralled with what I have been reading. In a July 9, 2015 article written by Dr. Nathan Busenitz (Professor of Historical Theology at The Masters Seminary), Dr. Busenitz gives 10 reminders to those who preach the Gospel of Jesus. I do not wish to repeat everything Busenitz says, but I do want to extrapolate briefly on a few of the points he makes and why I believe they are so important, particularly to young preachers such as me (click here for Busenitz’s full article).
First, quoting the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, Busenitz explains that effective ministry is centered on the powerful preaching of the Word of God, not gimmicks and fads. “This [the preaching of the gospel] is the great battering ram that shall dash down the bulwarks of iniquity.” Something that can be attractive to young preachers (including me) is the latest “Church Growth Model.” Fads come and go, but what stays true is the message of hope and redemption that is the Gospel. Certainly, as culture changes, there are other approaches that can be used by preachers to effect great success for the Kingdom, so long as these methods are Christo-centric and Gospel focused. However, I believe when the Lord speaks through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 55:11 saying, “My word shall not return void…” He means strong Biblical preaching will not return void and should be the “go to” method of every preacher who is blessed to fill a pulpit.
Next, Busenitz addresses the severity of preaching saying, “It [preaching] is a far more serious task than preachers realize.” Quoting the 17th-century Puritan preacher Richard Baxter, he goes on to say what I have already inadequately attempted, “…I am ashamed of every sermon I preach; when I think what I have been speaking of, and who sent me, and that men’s salvation or damnation is so much concerned in it, I am ready to tremble lest God should judge me as a slighter of His truths and the souls of men, and lest in the best sermon I should be guilty of their blood.” Preaching is not an opportunity to entertain (click here for a good article concerning this discussion) the masses. Rather, it is a time to hear from God and be challenged in your Christian walk.
E.M. Bounds continues this thought, “Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God’s work and is powerless to project God’s cause in this world.” The point being made is that powerful preaching is the result of powerful prayer. I once heard a pastor of a large church say he spends 20 hours in prayer over every sermon he preaches. This dovetails seamlessly into what Busenitz says regarding a preacher’s personal discipline. Quoting A.W. Pink he says, “The great work of the pulpit is to press the authoritative claims of the Creator and Judge of all the earth—to show how short we have come of meeting God’s just requirements, to announce His imperative demand of repentance. . . It requires a “workman” and not a lazy man—a student and not a slothful one—who studies to “show himself approved unto God…” Prayer and discipline are vital to studying God’s word, as the preacher earnestly prays for the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Scripture in accordance with John 14:26. Not only in study, but prayer and discipline are also vital in delivery. It can be very tempting, as the preacher begins to understand the people in his church, to guide his sermon into the direction that will get the most “amens” from the crowd; in this case prayer and discipline are important for humility. People should not be coming to hear from a man; rather they should be coming to hear from God through His mouth-piece. This brings me to my last point…
Dutch Reformed pastor R.B. Kuiper, says, “He [the preacher] is not at all important, but his office is extremely important. Therefore he should take his work most seriously without taking himself seriously. He should preach the Word in season and out of season in forgetfulness of self. He should ever have an eye single to the glory of Christ, whom he preaches, and count himself out.” What a reality check! As a man I am nothing special, but as God’s man I am vitally important. Not because of who I am, but because of Who has called me into service. Every time I open the Holy writ, it is not about my ability to entertain, it is not about my grasp of the English language, it is not even about my presence in the pulpit. No, it is all about leading my congregation in worship through the preaching of the Word of God. In short, it is all about Him.
I hope that in sharing these thoughts, perhaps another young preacher such as I, might also be challenged in the same way I have been. Perhaps even a seasoned preacher who needs a shot in the arm might benefit from this. I do not know much, but I do know this: God has called certain men to powerfully preach the Good News of salvation through grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. That being said, I leave you with this, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14.