The Pastoral Context of Preaching
The expectations placed upon the pastor in the modern day can be overwhelming to anyone who occupies the office. Each day confronts every pastor with overwhelming obligations. These obligations are sometimes expected and often unexpected. In order to meet the challenges of the day, the pastor must know his priorities.
Some have been prone to divide the preaching role from the pastoral role. Paul writes to the Ephesians that the role of pastor and teacher is an equipping role (Eph 4:12). In other words, the task of the pastor is to equip, and his most useful tool for equipping the saints to the work of the ministry is the preaching of the Word of God.
Indeed, I contend that there is nothing more important to pastoral ministry than the faithful preaching of the Bible. This is not intended to minimize the various other responsibilities given to the pastor, but it is to say that the role of proclaiming the Word of God is the one thing that must not suffer in the busyness of ministry.
Preaching the Word of God should be the primary function of the pastor, first, because preaching equips people to be witnesses to an often-hostile world. The task of sharing Christ is becoming more difficult—and necessary—to a world that is seemingly growing in its outrage. Whether it is cultural, political, or even theological disagreements, anger seems to be the mood of the day.
Our only hope to overcome such volatility is to continue to uplift the crucified yet resurrected Lord. The pastor is the one who stands before the congregation with the Spirit of God in his heart and the Word of God in his hand to demonstrate and to educate the people how best to speak to a society that is often antagonized.
When the pastor faithfully presents the Word of God, he is modeling how to make faithful presentations of the gospel to neighbors who may be steeped in the culture of outrage. Furthermore, he is demonstrating to the church how they can best minister the Word of God to one another.
Second, preaching the Bible with fidelity teaches the people to grow spiritually. Strong churches are built upon the Word of God. As pastors proclaim the Word of God, they are demonstrating that good exegesis leads to faithful application.
When congregants practice good exegesis, they will discover the proper application of Scripture for the various situations of their life. Principles of hermeneutics, theological method, and proper application are demonstrated as the pastor faithfully handles the text on a weekly basis. The outcome is that our churches will be made stronger.
Our task as pastors is to lead people to feast upon God’s Word. Jeremiah 15:16 says that God’s “words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name.”
Exposing congregants to faithful exposition prepares people for the task of personal Bible study so that they grow in their own walk with the Lord and thereby find joy and delight. When joy and delight are discovered within the pages of Scripture, the people will desire to return to it over and over.
Third, preaching equips people to go through times of suffering better. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is written from the depths of intense suffering. Paul’s anguish was so deep that it led him to even “despair of life” (2 Cor 1:8).
The intensity of suffering led Paul to rely upon the promises of God through the preaching of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 1:19–20). Likewise, pastors who are faithful to preach and apply the Bible to teach those who are suffering how to maintain an eschatological hope during a time of existential crisis.
Preaching communicates to the people that there is no greater resource to prepare them for the various aspects of life than the Bible. When they hear the Bible preached with clarity and enthusiasm, it equips believers to face the various situations of their lives with confidence in the text of Scripture.
To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, preaching should not be a spectacle causing people to wonder at our rhetoric. Rather, preaching should be spectacles enabling people to see their circumstances of life through the lens of God’s Word.
Fourth, preaching the Bible corrects people who may be drifting toward sin and open rebellion against God. The Word of God is given to us, in part, in order to reprove and correct (2 Tim. 3:16).
One of the ways that the Bible reproves the sinner is through the faithful explanation and application of the text. As the Bible is the product of the Spirit’s inspiration (2 Pet 1:21), the Spirit is often the means of the Spirit’s conviction and correction. The Spirit uses the text of Scripture to create holiness within the people of God.
There is no more pastoral work than the proclamation of the Word of God. It is through the proclamation of the Bible that God equips His people to be witnesses to a hostile world, feeds His people for their own spiritual growth, comforts His people during times of suffering, and corrects His people when they drift toward sin. The outcome of pastoral preaching, then, is that the people are equipped to witness, are filled with joy, are comforted in hope, and are led to holiness.
What more could a pastor hope to accomplish?
John Mann is the Pastor of GracePointe Church in Springtown, Texas, and Adjunct Professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.