I recently went through the process of candidating for a bivocational pastor position for a church. This process is always simultaneously a blessing and edifying time and a daunting and emotional experience. Both in the questioning with the pulpit committee and the dialogue with the church, you are forced to defend your ministry or at least your perspective on the office and role of pastor. This is not a bad thing.
For me, this always leads to a discussion about my approach, or theology and methodology, of preaching. As church leaders and members are asking me about my approach to and commitment of preaching, I am always faced with a bit of a personal crisis. “Do I really believe in what I do and what I am committed to in my preaching?” And “why do I hold these commitments?”
Due to contemplating a request that was posed to me after the church voted and affirmed my call to be pastor, I came to a sobering and perhaps surface-level offensive conclusion. I am more convinced and convicted about my commitment to text-driven expository preaching than I am to any of the other practices associated with my call to ministry singularly and collectively. This includes but is not limited to my call to be a pastor, my call to pastor a specific church, and my call to teach preaching at NOBTS.
In this article, I will try to explain three reasons why I am so convinced. Perhaps my thoughts and contemplations here will help you in preaching commitments and pastoral calling.
First, I believe it is the type of preaching that best honors and faithfully exposes the Bible.
I am not committed to a method. I am committed to the text — submitting to it in my own life and preaching it powerfully and accurately in the pulpit. I believe expository preaching is the method or style (I prefer philosophy) of preaching that derives from a high view of Scripture. And, it is the kind of preaching that best allows for the congregation’s complete and accurate exposure to the Word of God
I believe the Bible is uniquely inspired by God. I therefore also believe the Bible is completely true, accurate, and enough for salvation and spiritual growth. Text-Driven systematic expository preaching is directly based on understanding Scripture this way and believing these things about the Word. Furthermore, preaching systematic expository sermons is the best way to make sure my pulpit is filled with what God has said not what Adam wants to say and to guard against my preferences setting the limits and the scope of my preaching. It forces me to preach all of the Bible eventually.
Second, I love the church.
I love my son. But my son is four years old. I do not offer this contrast to indicate that the information that proceeds it makes that which follows any more or any less true. In other words, I do not love my son any more or any less because he is four years old. However, that I love my son who happens to be four years old may speak more to what my love excludes than what it includes at this time in his life. Allow me to attempt to explain.
There are some things that I do not do out of and because of my love for my son. Being four, he does not interpret these actions as love or loving. As a matter of fact, he sees them as the opposite. For instance, I do not let him play in the street even though he believes it is fun. Nor do I let him build his diet on cotton candy because he believes it is good. I am much more concerned about his health than his happiness and his safety than his satisfaction. I believe this is real love, even if the object of that love does not view it as such.
I hope I am communicating, in case I am not, let me say it this way. I believe one of, if not, the most loving acts a pastor can do for his people is to give them through his personal life and from his pulpit the unadulterated Word of God. Now, they may not always see it is loving. Surprisingly in this way, adult Christians who have been members of the church for a lifetime can be a lot like a four year old child. But, in much the same way, I am much more concerned about their health than their happiness and their safety than their satisfaction.
So, I give them the Word because I love them. It is what they need for their spiritual health and what they must have for the safety of their souls. Furthermore, this type of preaching, I believe, is the most conducive for and consistent with fulfilling the Great Commission.
Finally, I fear God.
I fear God more than man. I fear God instead of man. Therefore, I strive to obey God not man. This includes my approach to homiletics. (To some extent, this final reason builds very closely off the previous one). I believe God has called pastors to shepherd the church to which he has given us charge in light of the appearing and under the authority of the Great Shepherd. As such, I know I am one who will be held accountable for and over the souls of those who have been allotted to my charge (1 Peter 5:1-4).
This impacts many areas of my ministry and one of these is certainly my preaching and teaching. God has called us to obey His Word (Ezra 7:10; 1 Timothy 4:11-16). He has commissioned us to herald His Word (2 Timothy 4:2). He has commanded us to proclaim all of His Word (Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 3:16). And, as I mentioned above, He has assigned to us the mission of making disciples by teaching others “to obey everything He has commanded us” (Matthew 28:18-20).
So what if my congregation does not want me to do what is good for them, what they need for salvation, what is good for their souls, and what is necessary for discipleship? What if they “request” that I stop preaching expository sermons? What if they ask that I preach something that they consider more palatable? Remember, I am more committed to this understanding of the Word and this philosophy of preaching than I am to any of the other practices associated with my call to ministry including where I serve. I fear God!
Perhaps you are still confused or even more bothered by my earlier position regarding my call and understanding of pastoral preaching. Let me in drawing a conclusion attempt to explain it another way by borrowing the sentiment of Dr. Adrian Rogers as my guide. “I don’t have to be the pastor of any church or the pastor of the specific church at which I am now serving. I don’t have to teach preaching at NOBTS or serve as Dean of Chapel. I don’t have to preach. I don’t even have to survive. But, I will not compromise the Word of God. And if I do preach, I must preach the whole counsel of God.”
I hope this helps. I hope this encourages you. And specifically, I pray that it strengthens the resolve in your pastoral ministry, come what may or wherever you find yourself, to faithfully and fully “Preach the Word!”
Pass It On
If you know of someone else this article may help, please pass it on to them!