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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Primacy of Preaching

As the two previous posts have indicated, there has been a growing trend of pastors showing contempt towards preaching, and in particular the preparation for preaching. This is evidenced by either plagiarizing other people’s sermons or simply hiring folks under your camp to prepare the sermons for you. One must wonder, “If the pastor is not spending his time in Scripture and preparing to preach, then what is he doing all week long?” That is the $64,000 question.

There is no question that the pastoral responsibilities have ballooned over recent years. The demands on a pastor’s schedule are no doubt demanding, and he must choose what he preeminent among all the priorities. Furthermore, there is the “tyranny of the practical” and the new stigma of the “leadership” phenomena where the pastor efficiently runs his organization like a finely-tuned machine through organization, administration, and deliberation. Often when churches look for pastors, they extend the job description beyond the biblical model to include responsibilities which anyone can do who are not called to preach. However, because the pastor is the leader, he is expected to do them, even though that means sacrificing other more importantly matters in the meantime—namely, the diligent and devoted study of God’s Word. The primacy of preaching is replaced by several illegitimate substitutes which are often used for justification for neglecting the sacred desk to which pastors are called.

Don’t get me wrong, there are other responsibilities that lie under the pastor, such as prayer, pastoral care, visiting the sick and lost, etc. which are necessary, right, and good. But at the same time, there are many things which are not and should not occupy the sacred space and time which should be reserved for God and His Word, such as business meetings, administrative duties, and other organizational necessities. Dr. Al Mohler wrote a chapter in the book Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching (Soli Deo Gloria, 2002) called “The Primacy of Preaching.” The context of this chapter is his exposition of Colossians 1:25-29. I would like to share with you some excerpts from his chapter:

Commenting on Paul’s stewardship of the mysteries of God, Mohler said:

“Paul’s intention was not to dabble a little bit in preaching; nor was it his intention merely to add preaching to his ministerial resume or itinerary in order that he might complete himself as a well-rounded minister of the gospel. Nor was it that he would eventually get around to preaching in the midst of other pastoral responsibilities. No, he said, ‘All of this, in the end, is fulfilled and is only fulfilled, in the full carrying out of my responsibility of preaching the Word.’

When the minister of the gospel faces the Lord God as judge, there will be many questions addressed to him. There will be many standards of accountability. There will be many criteria of judgment, but in the end the most essential criterion of judgment for the minister of God is, “Did you preach the Word? Did you fully carry out the ministry of the Word? In season and out of season, was the priority of ministry the preaching of the Word?

That is not to say that there are not other issues, that there are not other responsibilities, or that there are not even other priorities; but there is one central, non-negotiable, immovable, essential priority, and that is the preaching of the Word of God” (15-16).

Furthermore, Mohler juxtaposes Paul’s priority to preach with the contemporary preacher today:

“Contrast Paul’s absolute priority with the congregational confusion of today’s church. When you look at manuals, books, magazines, seminars, and conferences addressed to pastors, you notice that preaching, if included at all, is most often not the priority. When you hear people speak about how to grow a church, how to build a church, and how to build a great congregation, few and far between are those who say it comes essentially by the preaching of the Word. And we know why, because it comes by the preaching of the Word slowly; slowly, immeasurably, sometimes even invisibly, and hence we are back to our problem. If you want to see quick results, the preaching of the Word just might not be the way to go. If you are going to find results in terms of statistics, numbers, and visible response, it just might be that there are other mechanisms, other programs, and other means that will produce that faster. The question is whether it produces Christians.

Indeed, such techniques will not produce maturing and faithful believers in the Lord Jesus Christ because that is going to come only by the preaching of the Word. Preaching is not a mechanism for communication that was developed by preached who needed something to do on Sunday. It was not some kind of sociological or technological adaptation by the church in the first century trying to come up with something to do between the invocation and benediction. It was the central task of preaching that framed their understanding of worship, and not only their understanding of worship, but also their understanding of the church.” (17-18)

To the preachers who excuse themselves from preaching their own sermons because they don’t have anything to preach, he said:

“The gospel is simply the most transformative, the most powerful, and the most explosive message there is. If you have a problem finding something to preach, I guarantee that you are not preaching the gospel.” (22)

Finally, let me share one final excerpt which explains the balance and biblical perspective to the primacy of preaching today:

“His [Paul’s] authority was nothing, but Christ is all-sufficient, as seen in His Word. This means we have to devote ourselves to preaching not as one priority among others, but as our central and highest priority.

What does it mean to be a servant of the Word? It means first, that our ministry is so prioritized that the preaching of the Word becomes so central that everything else must fall into place behind this priority—everything else. Are there other important tasks of ministry? Of course. Are there other important priorities of the church? Of course. But your personal schedule will reveal the priority of preaching, and your personal schedule will reveal just how serious you are about preaching. You will find out quickly what a church believes about preaching by looking at its calendar and added expectations, and you will find out what a preacher believes about preaching by looking at his calendar and his schedule.” (29-30).

I am grateful for Mohler’s chapter in this excellent book. Pastors would do well to read Feed My Sheep. There are myriads of pastors who know how to “win friends and influence people,” but few know how to faithfully “feed my sheep.” If preaching is not the driving passion of your ministry as a pastor, one has to one wonder to what exactly you have been called. Oh that our ministries and churches were marked for the passionate preaching of God’s Word!

*********************** Trackpack and other posts: P&P: Professional Behind the Pulpit P&P: Plagiarizers in the Pulpit Steve Sjogren: Don’t Be Original – Be Effective! Ray Van Neste: Pastoral Plagiarism Ray Van Neste: Pastoral Plagiarism, Part 2 Justin Taylor: Pastoral Plagiarism Justin Taylor: Plagiarizing in the Pulpit Coty Pinckney: Plagiarism and Pastors (see page 4) Ken Fields: Nuked Burritos from the Pulpit Cavman: Plagiarism #1 – Lazy Pastors Phil Steiger: Pervasive Pastoral Plagiarism? Phil Steiger: Jeremiah on Pastoral Plagiarism Christianity Today: When Pastors Plagiarize

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