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This Is the First Thing

What is the most important thing you do? As a pastor, if you had to bullet-point your two or three vital jobs, what would they be? Would you agree with what David Martin Lloyd-Jones put at the top of his list? In Preaching and Preachers he said,

“We are here to preach this Word, this is the first thing, ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word.’ Now there are the priorities laid down once and forever. This is the primary task of the Church, the primary task of the leaders of the Church, the people who sit in this position of authority; and we must not allow anything to deflect us from this, however good the cause, however great the need” (23).”

If I may be so bold as to clarify, perhaps differ, with the good Doctor where he seems to make the role of the preacher and the role of the church synonymous. The Church is more than the preacher. The preacher is one member of the Church. The priority of the preacher does not equate to the priority of all the other members. But there is a consequence to the preacher not properly focused on his role.

I trust in this day when the Holy Spirit is active in the world that the words of Amos are not true among any of our congregations. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11, KJV). When preachers stop proclaiming the gospel for the flock to hear it is the equivalent of a famine.

What is at the top of your to-do list? I would submit that the call to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2) would make it to your list. Your activity of breaking the bread of the Word and feeding the flock with a sermon is arguably the most important thing you do.

Not Deprived of Their Proper Pasture

I came across a little know quote by John Calvin that supports this claim in two points:

  1. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, so it is critical people hear it.
  2. Preaching is the conduit of this power of God.

He said, “Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe” (66).

Calvin ends by addressing the preacher: “O you who call yourselves bishops and pastors of the poor people, see to it that the sheep of Jesus Christ are not deprived of their proper pasture; and that it is not prohibited and forbidden that any Christian feebly and in his own language to read, handle, and hear this holy gospel” (72).

So What Is Your Meal Plan?

So what is your meal plan? What is your approach to sermon preparation? How far in advance have you planned? If you hesitate I trust the links below will assist you in answering those questions. I especially recommend the first two articles about involving others in your sermon preparation.

  1. What would it look like to do sermon prep with a team? Eugene Peterson describes what it looked like for him in his book Subversive Spirituality in a chapter titled “Kittel Among the Coffee Cups“. You can download a PDF of the chapter by following the linked chapter title.
  2. Sermon Preparation: Get Help From a Lay Research Team. “Any pastor – no matter how small his church – can have a research team. No matter what size your congregation, there are people in your church who like to read and research. They are SHAPED by God for this very thing. They’ll be thrilled to help you with your sermon preparation, if you just give them a list of your sermon topics.”
  3. Seasons of the Church Year. “Many churches in the Protestant tradition do not celebrate in any deliberate or sustained way the various seasons of the church year beyond Christmas and Easter. Planned and purposeful observance of the Christian seasons and festivals can become an important tool for education and discipleship in the Faith, as well as a vehicle for spiritual growth and vitality.”
  4. 6-part series on preaching from the Alliance Youth site: know those you are preaching to, be clear in what and how you are preaching, feed people by your preaching, do your work in preaching and leave the rest to God, challenge people in your preaching, and put the necessary time into your preaching.
  5. Still Not Professionals: Ten Pleas for Today’s Pastors builds upon John Piper’s 2002 book titled Brothers, We Are Not Professionals and is an introduction to the 2013 Desiring God Pastor’s conference by the same name. Included are provocative titles such as “Brothers, We Should Stink” and “Brothers, Praise Somebody Other Than God”.
  6. The Googlization of Bible Study – Mike Leake on where Google is most unhelpful: “Google disseminates information. That’s great and helpful…when what you need is information. But the vast majority of what I need in personal Bible study and even sermon preparation is not information. I need to chew on a text and sweat through it.” (HT: Challies Dot Com)
  7. For your consideration: Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers: “Ministers have found it entirely too convenient and self-serving to dismiss congregational disinterest on the basis of attenuated attention spans or spiritual indifference. In most cases, the inattentiveness in the congregation is due to poor preaching – preaching that does not reward an energetic, conscientious listening. When attentive listeners are not rewarded for their energetic attentiveness, they eventually become inattentive.” Reviewed here.
  8. Here is a beautiful story of the hope and healing an All Saints Day service brough to a congregant.
  9. And this from Andrew Purves.
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