I heard recently of a church seeking a new pastor. Some said, “We want a pastor whose preaching is practical and encouraging.” Others said, “We need a doctrinal, expositional ministry.” Still others prefer preaching heavy on confrontation. It is easy to identify what some people want in the preaching they hear (sometimes they will tell you!), but what, exactly, do they need? Pastors, we should strive as preachers to provide preaching that truly meets peoples needs.
Now, I am not talking about felt needs, as in the “give them what they feel they need and they will come,” seeker-driven church model. Neither am I talking about the need of the moment preaching that identifies cultural trends and is constantly addressing the latest headline. Nor, just what we think they need, based on our perceptions or personalities. I am talking about seeing the needs God has designed the Scripture to meet and then providing preaching that, in a balanced way, reflects that design. God has given us a simple pattern to follow in Scripture’s stated purpose that can guide us in providing preaching that meets people’s needs.
2 Timothy 3:16–17, a very familiar passage, says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (NASB). The Bible is God’s revealed means for the growth of lives into maturity, and preaching this Word, according to the purposes for which it has been given, will produce mature people. We know that in all of Scripture we find passages that are particularly good for teaching doctrine, or for correcting wrong thinking or behaving, or encouraging practical growth in sanctification. However, sometimes we fail to realize as well that in every part of Scripture, there is truth to be taught, reproof to be given, correction to be made, and practical training to be provided.
When you approach your study of the Word for preaching, ask yourself questions about the text that reflect these purposes, and then preach them all in the sermon. This will help provide a well-balanced preaching and teaching ministry that meets the needs of the people God has given you to shepherd. It will also help us avoid the tendency to over-emphasize certain types of preaching based on our personalities and our or others’ preferences.
This may seem too simple and too obvious to qualify as a “homiletical model.” Maybe so, but are you willing to try it? Here are some steps for application.
God has told us what people need, so let’s provide preaching that meets people’s needs!
Many people promise to provide the secret to a successful pastoral ministry. Conferences, curricula, and consultants like to offer products for discouraged pastors. Attend this conference and you will come away with a ministry-changing model. Purchase this curriculum (with video of guy with fashionable glasses or foreign accent!) and you will regain interest (and keep purchasing so you will maintain interest). Listen to this expert who can diagnose your problem and lead you to renewal. Pastors soon feel as if they cannot possibly lead a ministry with only the Word and the Spirit’s gifts.
In quite another manner, Paul encourages Timothy in 2 Timothy 4, verses 2 and 5, with the not-so-secret “secret to successful ministry.” He renews our focus even when people will not endure sound doctrine and seem to want novelty. Though his instructions may not fill a conference schedule or provide an eight-session video series, it is expert advice from God the Spirit through Paul.
1. Preach the Word — In verse 2, Paul emphasizes that a steady diet of preaching the Scriptures will keep your flock on course. The preaching is not just explaining the text, but our preaching is also characterized by timeliness, correction, rebuking, exhorting, encouragement, patience, and careful instruction in how to handle life’s circumstances.
2. Be serious about the ministry — the Scripture calls us to a relatively simple ministry even though performing it is not always easy. In contrast to the drunkard, who is unpredictable and unstable and tries to escape real life, we as pastors should be sober, diligent, consistent, and focused on the ministry of the Word and prayer both publicly and privately. Our responsibility for souls warrants a serious and sober mindset in ministry.
3. Endure hardship — there will be tough times and difficult people that will bring hardship in ministry. We are to endure it—not react to it or run from it—endure it. Trust the ministry of the Word and the power of the Spirit to change the wrong attitudes of those causing the hardship. We really cannot speed the process of endurance, but we can appreciate what endurance produces even while enduring.
4. Work hard to share the gospel — in the area of evangelism like no other, we tend to look for a silver bullet—a new program, event, or emphasis that will reach people. Our desires our honorable, but Paul tells us that sharing the gospel is going to take work. Someone once said, “Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.” I fear it is the same in some of our ministries—we need to do the work of proclaiming the gospel to those in our community to see the church grow. Otherwise, weeds of discord, selfishness, pride, and distraction will grow in our church.
5. Keep a well-balanced ministry — Paul rounds out his instruction with this little phrase—“fulfill your ministry.” In essence, maintain a well-balanced approach to the various aspects of your ministry. Balance public ministry with personal relationships. Reach the world, but also the neighborhood. Work for outreach, but also for edification. Exhort, but also encourage. Consider the proportion of your ministry in light of what we are called to do here.
Pastor, if you are discouraged, perhaps you are really going through a time of endurance. Keep working hard using your gifts while trusting the Spirit. This is the secret to a successful pastoral ministry!
For some reason it seems to have started earlier than usual this year. Naïvely perhaps, I’ve always thought “Black Friday” referred to the day after Thanksgiving (i.e., Friday). The reality is that we’ve all been receiving emails and seeing print ads about Black Friday and pre-Black Friday sales for a couple of weeks now.
It has been estimated that last year Americans spent more than $59 billion during Black Friday weekend (Thurs–Sun). Assuming a U.S. population of 315 million, that works out to about $187 spent per person (every man, woman, and child) in the country during a single four-day weekend. Incidentally, total holiday spending for 2012 came to about $580 billion.
There is nothing wrong with purchasing gifts for other people and even spending money on one’s self. But somewhere along the way, we as a nation seem to have crossed the line from enjoying God’s good gifts and displaying generosity toward others to blatant consumerism and greediness.
Many biblical principles come into play when considering how much to spend on gifts and such during the holiday season. One of the first to come to mind is “The borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Prov 22:7). Admittedly, the Bible nowhere forbids borrowing altogether, but the Scriptures do repeatedly warn us about the dangers of debt. Browse the ads and enjoy some holiday shopping, but don’t let Christmas spending become an entrée to the realm of slavery.
In his commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, John Calvin discusses Jesus’ statement that the “Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt 6:8). Calvin addresses the question of why believers should pray if God already knows what we need. He suggests the following as at least a partial answer:
Believers do not pray, with the view of informing God about things unknown to him, or of exciting him to do his duty, or of urging him as though he were reluctant. On the contrary, they pray, in order that they may arouse themselves to seek him, that they may exercise their faith in meditating on his promises, that they may relieve themselves from their anxieties by pouring them into his bosom; in a word, that they may declare that from Him alone they hope and expect, both for themselves and for others, all good things (Calvin, commentary on Matt 6:8).
When praying, believers never tell God something he doesn’t already know. But God has chosen to use prayer as a means by which God’s people express their dependence upon their Father who knows all things and can actually do something about the most puzzling problems of life.
Theologically Driven features insight on Scripture, the church, and contemporary culture from faculty and staff at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. DBTS has faithfully prepared men for gospel ministry since its founding in 1976. As a ministry of the Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, Michigan, it provides graduate level training with a balance between strong academics and a heart for local church ministry.
Contributors to the blog include:
John Aloisi, Assistant Professor of Church History
Bill Combs, Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament
Bruce Compton, Professor of Biblical Languages and Exposition
Jared Compton, Assistant Professor of New Testament
Sam Dawson, Professor of Systematic Theology
Dave Doran, President and Professor of Pastoral Theology
Pearson Johnson, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology
Bob McCabe, Professor of Old Testament
Mark Snoeberger, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
To find out more, visit Theologically Driven.