Let’s consider the priority of preaching.
I will write three consecutive articles about the ministry of the Word. By the end of these next three weeks, the school bells will start to ring. The people will be bringing summer vacation to a close, and a new church year will begin with the new school year. The health and strength of our churches depend on the consistency and the quality of our preaching. The flock of God needs to be fed—this is a consistent theme of the New Testament.
Jesus said, “…the Kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil.” Jesus taught Peter that to shepherd the flock is to feed the flock. Paul declared that the Lord gave some to be pastor/teacher. In fact, he said that a basic requirement for local church ministry is that a pastor be able to teach the Word of God. Preaching the Word ought to be a priority.
Have you observed how often this priority can slide to the back burner? The preacher’s life and ministry become so full, so busy, that he fails to prepare to feed the flock. The Sunday morning worship service adds more and more and more “stuff” until the preaching of the Word becomes a secondary concern. The ministry of the Word can lose its primary place.
Sometimes the preacher allows his focus on preaching to shift and drift because he lacks confidence. He hedges, “I am not a great orator so I will spend my time and energy on other aspects of the work.” He hesitates, “I am a below average exegete, so I will focus on other things.” Let no one be mistaken, it can be an intimidating task to stand before the people of God with the responsibility to preach the Word of God. It can become a heavy burden.
Not long ago I confessed my fears about a preaching assignment. I was scheduled to preach to a group of our Southern Baptist Convention medical missionaries in Richmond, Va. I admitted to a trusted brother, “Who am I to preach to such a group of saints?” His response gave me both comfort and confidence: “Just open the Bible and open your heart.” I wish someone had told me that years earlier. Our churches need pastors who can stand up week by week to open the Word and open their hearts.
That brother’s challenge—”open the Word and open your heart”—reminds me of one of the classic text book definitions of preaching. Phillips Brooks 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 Tim. 4:16).
Next week I will write about the preacher’s heart, then we will consider the preacher’s message. In the meantime, pray for your pastor to open the Bible and open his heart this Sunday.