Open the Bible and open your heart.
Last week we began to consider the priority of preaching. The health and strength of our churches depends on the consistency and the quality of our preaching. The flock of God needs to be fed. This is an ongoing theme of the New Testament. We pray for our pastors to make preaching a priority.
On one hand, preaching is a complex craft. The preacher must be equipped to rightly divide the Word and then effectively deliver it. He is working to answer a number of questions. What did this text say to the first readers? What does it say to us today? How is it connected to the Gospel message of the Cross? How should I deliver this message?
On the other hand, the preaching task for the pastor is simple, “Open the Bible and open your heart.”
The pastor must be willing and able to stand before the flock of God and open his heart. His preaching involves who he is as the shepherd, as a person and as a follower of Jesus. Sometimes the preacher struggles to feed the flock because he has heart problems, and these heart problems come in a variety of forms.
Sometimes the heart is full of sin. This forces the preacher to hide his heart from his flock. His work in the pulpit is a farce; he is playing a game—play acting the part. His great fear is that the people of God might get a glimpse of the true condition of his heart.
The heart might be hard and cold. Possibly the pastor has lost his love for the flock. He brings the Word without passion or burden. He has not been praying for these blood-bought people of God, and he hopes they cannot tell it.
Fear can burden the heart of the preacher—fear that his work is in vain; fear that his ability is inferior. This kind of fear can render him timid, stifle his creativity and diminish his capacity. Even while he works away in the pulpit, he wonders if you can see his heart of fear.
The preacher needs to have his heart right and his heart ready to be open for the people to see. I think this is what Phillips Brooks meant when he said that preaching is the “communication of truth through personality.” This understanding of preaching echoes the Apostle Paul who wrote to Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Our words of love must come from a heart of love; words of faith must come from a heart assured, and calls for obedience must come from a heart in glad submission. The Word of God comes from a man of God.
The preacher enjoys freedom and power when he can step into the pulpit praying, “O Lord, let your people see my heart—my heart for them, my heart for the lost, and my heart for You.”
Pray for the heart of your preacher.