I genuinely believe that a pastor holds the place as the primary leader of the church he serves. This is true whether he desires or aspires to this or not. He is the primary voice that all of the congregation hears on a consistent basis. So, fill in the blank. As the pastor goes or what he says in the area of . . . so goes the church. A portion of the chapter I contributed in Together We Equip was dedicated to this perspective.
Let me say it this way, you cannot not lead from the pulpit. As a pastor you are going to set direction and vision cast. And, you will communicate it from your pulpit and through your preaching. “The question is not will you lead from the pulpit. The question is will you lead well and take your people to their God-given direction from the pulpit.” So in other words, the question is will you lead from the pulpit intentionally.
Look at it another way, will you do it with clarity and purpose? Will it be done well and be used as a tool for your ministry and leadership? Again, “Your people will know what you want and expect of their lives by the level of specificity of your application. Your people will know what you believe the mission of the church to be by the content of the text that you preach and the points you allow God to drive home from your pulpit.”
Therefore, in this post, I will give you 3 suggestions for preaching your pastoral vision as a part of your preaching ministry. “Understanding the role that my public preaching and teaching ministry held in the spiritual formation of my congregation, I found that I was more effective in integrating my ministry leadership and discipleship through the pulpit if I approached leading with some intentionality.” I believe the following thoughts will go a long way in helping you lead well and communicate vision intentionally through your pulpit ministry.
First, Know the Word.
In the preaching methodology that I teach my students, the process of reading is what follows immediately after the step of selecting a biblical text. Primarily here I am talking about reading on two fronts. I instruct them to read the entire book that their text is located in multiple times. The reason is obvious — context. You cannot rightly understand the part without having knowledge of the whole. I believe it was G. Campbell Morgan who said he never preached a single text out of a book of the Bible until he has read the entire book no less than 50 times.
I also encourage them to read their specific text multiple times. This is for the initial stages of interpretation — familiarity and observation. But, I believe there is a third type of reading that every expositor and pastor must do as well. We must constantly and consistently be exposing ourselves to the whole of God’s Word. For preaching and the life of the preacher in general, this practices yields more benefits than we have space to mention here. Specifically for preaching your vision, however, I will mention two.
First and most importantly, the vision for your church must be biblical. To say it another way, when you think about a vision for your church, you are not starting from scratch. You are not brainstorming and pulling ideas out of thin air. It will come from the Bible. Even more direct, if it is not in the Bible, God has not said it and thus it is not His vision for your church. So, don’t preach it! With this in mind, how will you know God’s vision for your church and thus confidently preach it to your people? You must know God’s Word. You must be in it yourself.
Second, and related to the first, sometimes you will see that your church and community has a specific need, challenge, or question. And even though God’s Word does not address everything under the sun, it is sufficient. Therefore, I believe the best approach for responding to the need, answering the challenge, or engaging the question is to do so with God’s approach. And I believe God’s approach is the Bible in context. To say it another way, different books of the Bible or portions of books of the Bible address different issues.
So, I simply want to connect that portion of God’s Word to my people through my preaching ministry. What if God’s Word nowhere legitimately addresses this topic? (This is where many may disagree with me.) Then I am not going to address it from the pulpit either because I have no authority to do so. My calling is not to answer every question but to “Preach the Word!” The question, then, is how do we know what God’s Word, and specific books of the Bible, actually address? Well again, we have to read it and expose ourselves to it. We must know the Word!
Second, Cultivate Conviction and Commitment.
I could mean by this statement the need to cultivate conviction and commitment in your congregation. Certainly this is true. And furthermore, it absolutely is necessary if you are going to be effective at preaching your vision. However, here I am referring to a step that even proceeds this one. I mean producing the fruit of conviction and commitment in your own heart.
How can you produce it in the hearts of others if it has not been cultivated and does not exist in you. So, you genuinely, truly, and authentically make sure you believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, and sufficient Word of God. How else can you preach your vision through it? Or better yet, how else can it communicate it’s truth through you? You must come to see that God’s vision is what is revealed already in the Bible. It does not begin with you; it is simply communicated through you.
And seeing this, you must become completely sold out to God’s biblical worldview and command for the church. Then and only then will you preach it effectively to your people. “Your people will understand what you value by what you say from your pulpit.”
Finally, Plan Ahead.
All of this is for naught if you cannot plot a course to where you are going and then navigate that course to arrive at the desired destination. In other words, you cannot take others effectively and efficiently to a location you do not know and cannot identify. So, as you are seeing in the Word what you plan to preach and constantly and consistently submitting yourself to God’s Vision, you need to put pen to paper. To be really effective and intentional about preaching your pastoral vision, you should put your preaching texts and plans to dates on a calendar.
In other words, I am talking about creating a preaching calendar. There is value in doing some amount and type of advanced planning for your preaching, even if you do not fill every date and leave some room for occasional interruptions. I have learned more about this from conversations with and the writing of my friend Dr. Stephen Rummage, Senior Pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida, than from any other person or source. As a matter of fact, if you do not own a copy, I would encourage you to pick up his book Planning Your Preaching.
Upon my last conversation with Dr. Rummage, he was preparing to go on a retreat to accomplish this very task of planning out his yearly preaching calendar. He actually spoke about this in terms of “preaching his vision.” I believe he usually follows the practice of planning out an entire year. However, he also is an advocate of and explains how to plan your preaching in three and six month increments.
The point is do some level of advance planning for your pulpit ministry. If you are going to be efficient and intentional about preaching your vision as a pastor, you must know the Word, be convicted of and by the Word, and plan ahead with the Word. Rarely does anything noteworthy and effective in our ministry and preaching happen by accident. And this is specifically true as it relates to your pastoral vision.
Allow me to end with the words that I used to conclude the section on leadership from my chapter from Together We Equip. “My practical encouragement to you would be to be intentional with the values you communicate from the pulpit, make specific applications in your messages that call people to develop into Christlikeness and servants in the church, and preach often on books and passages of Scripture that remind your congregation of the Gospel and our Gospel mission.” As always, I hope my thoughts here help you in some way as you strive to “Preach the Word!”
Adam Hughes, “Integrating Discipleship and Ministry Leadership in Your Preaching,” in Together We Equip: Integrating Discipleship and Ministry Leadership for Holistic Spiritual Formation, eds. Jody Dean and Hal Stewart (Bloomington: Westbow Press, 2018), 89.