Pastor, be faithful and trust the Lord to bring growth in those you serve.

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,” (2 Tim 2:24)

Pastor brother ministry is not easy. Ministry is not easy because we mainly deal with people. People are not always easy.

Even though people are not always easy, we are told that we must not be quarrelsome. In other words, we must not be people who are argumentative or who like to engage in disputes over every last thing.

Instead, we must be kind and patient. We must be able to teach. As well as we must correct our opponents with gentleness (2 Tim 2:25).

In all the work we do, we must trust that the Lord will bring growth in the life of others. We are not the Holy Spirit. We cannot cause another to change. Only the Lord can bring about true repentance in a person (2 Tim 2:25). We must be faithful to do what we are called to do and trust the Lord will bring the growth.

Pastor, please the Lord, not self or man.

”For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1 Thess 2:3-4)

True workmen for the Lord do not have ulterior motives. They should not be greedy. Their desire should not be to amass wealth, status, or position off the backs of those they are to serve and to whom they are to preach the good news. One should not enter ministry for riches or acclaim.

Ministers are entrusted with the gospel. They are speak the truth in love, not to please man, but to please God. Here in lies the difficulty. God is our boss/master not man. Sometimes those two are at odds. When they are at odds with one another, our default should not be to please man, rather our default should be to please God, trusting He will care for us.

Pastor, why do you preach? Why do you serve? Is it for your own gain or the gain of others? Do you trust God to provide or do you fear man? As Pastors, we serve an audience of One (God) to the pleasure of many (the congregation). Our focus must always be on pleasing the Lord not self or man.

Why Do Church Members Think the Pastor is the Only Minister?

Shepherd

Why do church members think the Pastor is the only minister? I asked that question last night during our Community Group meeting.

The Answer

Talking with my wife afterwards and thinking through the responses this morning, it seems congregants don’t believe they are on par with their pastor when it comes to their ability to minister. Pastors are put in a different category, thought to play in a different league, or are seen as higher on the hierarchal scale of spirituality. They are the professional. As the professional, they are the ones who do the “real” ministering.

The Reality

I, however, don’t believe that’s true. While my full-time vocation is ministry, I don’t see myself as higher up the spiritual scale as others. Nor do I believe I am playing in a different league than my congregants. There are those in my congregation who can minister just as effectively, if not better, than I can.

While, at times, my knowledge of the Bible, Theology, Hermeneutics, and Ecclesiology might be greater, my life experiences are still limited, my relationships don’t run as deep, and my ability to comfort is, at times, not as great.

Knowledge doesn’t always equal better ministry.

Additionally, if a Pastor’s main job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4), that necessitates others in the congregation are not only given the responsibility to minister, but also have the ability to minister. A little coaching or training might be needed, but ministry is possible.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

So don’t sell yourself short. You have the ability to minister. You might not be able to answer every theological question thrown at you, but ministry is much more than sharing knowledge. It is also about sharing wisdom. Wisdom that is gained from years of walking with the Lord and applying His Word to your life.

Question for Reflection

  1. How do you minister alongside your Pastor?

Resource

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On Pastoral Ministry

Pursue the pastoral metaphor a little further: Israel’s sheep were reared, fed, tended, retrieved, healed and restored – for sacrifice on the altar of God. This end of all pastoral work must never be forgotten – that its ultimate aim is to lead God’s people to offer themselves up to Him in total devotion of worship and service.

Many who are called pastors, having lost the end in view, or never having seen it, become pedlars of various sorts of wares, gulling the people and leading them into their own power. And when they fail to gather a clientele for their own brand of merchandise they uptail and away, for they are not really interested in the flock of God; they were using them only as a means of their own aggrandisement, to boost their ego and indulge their desire for power…

Whereas the Good Shepherd careth for the sheep – even unto death; and, therefore, seeks so to care for them that He may at last present them without blemish unto God.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How should a pastor care for his flock?

Resources

William Still, The Work of the Pastor, 17-18.

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10 Preaching Lessons from My First Year

Bible on Pulpit

Next week, I will celebrate my one year anniversary at my first church. Over the last year I have learned many valuable lessons, especially when it comes to preaching. Let me share with you some of the main preaching lessons I learned this last year.

10 Preaching Lessons from My First Year

(1) Be Yourself in the Pulpit

God has made us all different. Trying to sound like your favorite preacher will not work. Believe me, I have tried and I have failed. It is taken a year, but I am just now getting comfortable with being myself. It has made a difference in my preaching, as well as it has allowed me to connect with the people in a way I have not connected in the past.

(2) Get to Know Your People

The only way to know the questions your people are asking and the things they are dealing with in their personal, public, and family lives is to be around your people. If you want to make your applications pertinent, your illustrations connect, and the text come alive, you need to know your people.

(3) Use the Sermon Template You Get from Preaching Books, but Don’t be Afraid to Modify It

Most introductory preaching books and classes will provide you with a basic outline – Explain the text, Illustrate the text, and Apply the text – for each major point in your sermon. I believe that is a good rule of thumb, but don’t feel like you have to follow it to a “T”.

For instance, I have found that I can’t always think of an appropriate illustration for one of my major points. When I first started, I thought I needed one no matter what, so I would force an illustration in a section. The result was an awkward illustration that did not add much to the sermon. Over time and through loving, constructive criticism from my wife and others, I have learned that if I can’t think of an illustration, I should not force one.

(4) Know Your Time Limit and What Your People Can Handle

Don’t think you have to preach for forty-five minutes, or an hour, just because your favorite preacher does. If you can hold your people’s attention for twenty minutes, then preach for twenty minutes. If you can hold their attention for thirty or forty minutes, preach for thirty or forty minutes. Preaching to meet a self-imposed time limit is neither wise nor helpful.

Along with knowing your time limit, you should also be sensitive to what your people can handle. If they are accustomed to listening for thirty minutes, don’t come out of the gates on your first week preaching for an hour. It takes time for an attention span to grow. If you recognize this and slowly creep up to your target time limit, you will serve your people better and insure they will get more out of your sermons each week.

(5) Preach Different Genres and Both Testaments

Your yearly preaching schedule should include more than one genre and both Testaments. Doing so will not only help you develop your skills, but it will teach your people the importance of both the Old and New Testaments, as well as how to interpret all of Scripture.

(6) Limit Your Use of the Original Languages from the Pulpit

It is only natural to want to reference the original languages in your sermon. After all, you have probably spent several years in seminary talking through the text in Greek or Hebrew. While these languages should play a major role in sermon preparation, they will quickly cause your people’s eyes to glaze over if you refer to them too much. A wise preacher limit’s his use of them to times when they will help their people understand the text better.

(7) Commit to Preaching through Books

Working through a book from start to finish will serve to challenge both you and the congregation. When you commit to preaching a book, you are forced to deal with every verse in context. Doing so will help you grow in your understanding of Scripture, allow you to preach difficult and pointed texts your congregation needs to hear without feeling attacked, keep you from preaching only your interests, and give you a better chance of accurately interpreting God’s Word.

(8) Read Both Commentaries and Other’s Sermons, but Don’t Preach Them

Commentaries are a preachers best friend. They help us understand difficult texts and think of applications we may not have thought of otherwise. Likewise, reading sermons will help you to understand and apply the text, as well as help you to pull back from the technical nature of most commentaries and give insight into how best to structure your sermon. While commentaries and other’s sermons are helpful, it is important we don’t preach them, but do our own work.

(9) Don’t Forget the So What

It is important and necessary that we tell our people why the text matters to their life, how it applies to their situation, and how they might implement its teaching. If we don’t, we are not fully expounding the text and we are short-changing our people.

(10) Seek Out Constructive Criticism

Let’s face it, no one is a great preacher from the start, unless you are Charles Spurgeon. It takes time. I have found, however, you can increase your preaching skills more quickly by seeking out constructive criticism. My wife, friends, and trusted congregates all have given me feedback over the last year, which has helped me to right the wrong more quickly.

The goal is not self-glorification, but rather congregational edification. Removing those things from your preaching that hinder others from understanding the text is what you are after. There is no better way to understand what those things are than to ask those who are listening to your sermons.

Question for Reflection

  1. What would you add to my list from your own experience?

Resource

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Sermons, Cultural Studies, and the Heart

Heart and the City

Studying culture is necessary when preparing a sermon. Pastors, including myself, read and devour everything in culture to ready themselves for their sermon. While it is profitable for pastors to know what is going on around them, I think we have to be careful what we take in. Consuming everything is not profitable, and it may even be a subtle way for us to make way for our sin.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount tackles these subtle sins of the heart. Here is what he has to say:

You have never been guilty of adultery? All right. Would you then answer me this simple question. Why do you read all the details of divorce cases in the newspaper? Why do you do it? Why is it essential that you should read right through these reports? What is your interest? It is not a legal interest, is it? or a social one? What is it? There is only one answer: you are enjoying it. You would not dream of doing these things yourself, but you are doing them by proxy.

You are sinning in your heart and mind and in your imagination, and you are therefore guilty of adultery. That is what Christ says. How subtle this awful, terrible thing is! How often do men sin by reading novels and biographies. You read the reviews of a book and find that it contains something about a man’s misconduct or behavior, and you buy it. We pretend we have a general philosophical interest in life, and that we are sociologists reading out of pure interest. No, no; it is because we love the thing; we like it. It is sin in the heart; sin in the mind!

Could we actually be making way for sin in our sermon preparation? Could we be disguising our cultural studies as a way to make room for our heart to fulfill it’s lusts and desires? I don’t believe that is always the reason we study our culture, but these paragraphs gave me reason to pause and consider the reasons behind the cultural studies I do. It gave me reason to check my heart and see what sin I may be feeding. I hope it gives you reason to do the same.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Why do you study culture?
  2. Have you ever stopped and considered that some of your studies might be done to make way for sin?

Resource

Martyn-Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 239.

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