I have been thinking a lot lately about the importance of preaching. I think about that guy who stands up front, carrying a glass of water and placing a few pieces of 81/2 x 11 paper on a pulpit, while he takes a sip of water. After he takes a sip of water, he puts it down or perhaps places it on a stool that had found its place nearby and turns around to look at a bunch of people looking right at him. With a spotlight in his eyes, he can hardly see anyone but knows there are several people patiently waiting for him to begin. Taking a deep breath, he checks one last time that his microphone is working with a small tap and a “hello folks.” Knowing the microphone works fine, he looks down at his notes and looks back up. For the next half an hour or so (sometimes more, sometimes less), the pastor will attempt to communicate the Word of God clearly to those who are in the congregation. He will use analogies to explain different points (three points to be exact) and end it with a heart-felt story that will bring everything back to where he had begun. After a, “Let us pray” and a, amen,” the pastor takes his cup of water and his notes and walks away from the pulpit. Another Sunday has come and gone.
Though a pastor’s job goes beyond a Sunday service, it is, for the pastor, an important part of his week. Proclaiming the Word of God is not like public speaking. It is a lot harder in fact. When one does a speech for a public speaking class, one can wax elegance and fake their way through a less than exciting topic or position. When a pastor speaks to a congregation, he is, in a very real sense, speaking the Word of God through His written revelation. You can’t wax elegance with God’s Word. You can’t fake it or make up something on the spot. Simply put, there is a lot more that goes into preparing a message than speaking. In fact, speaking is a very small part of preaching.
One of the more important facets of preaching is humility and transparency. I think the reason many probably wouldn’t consider these a greater priority than speaking is due to the inability to properly measure humility and transparency. One can’t go to a store and buy a “transparency meter.”
There is also an important amount of studying that should take place a head of time. Commentaries, other Bible translations, journals, books, and other audio messages can be useful for this aspect. The more we engross ourselves with the Word of God and materials that point us to His Word, the more we will be transformed and convicted by it. As God’s Words continue to convict us, we are transformed and challenged. If we do not lead a life of humility and transparency, we could and would deceive ourselves into thinking that we have it all together – and we don’ (I am speaking for myself on this one). I know for myself, I am a crazy messed up child of God who has a lot of work to do in the department of humility and transparency. I am working on that though.
Here is a short list of other essentials that are important for preaching (notice that speaking is not apart of this list):
A solid prayer life
A repentant heart
A leading by the Holy Spirit
A full cup of grace and mercy
A missional mindset
Knowledge that “we” are the Gospel of Jesus in the flesh
A desire to share God’s Word with the World
A community of people who pray for you (your pastor)
Love (For God, himself, others and the world)
The Word of God
Don’t get me wrong. Speaking is important, but it isn’t that important. A famous man once said, “Go out into all the world and share the Good New of the Gospel. And, if needed, use words.” I think we are missing that in many of our churches today. We have many “pastors” who can speak well and are decent human beings. We have a limited supply of pastors who live a lifestyle incorporating the list we have above.
Which leads me to my final points and thoughts. I want to be an effective pastor in the very near future. I believe God has called me to that lifestyle above. Am I there yet? Have I even reached a decent place to feel even the littlest point of satisfaction? No I haven’t. In some of these – in fact most of these, I am not even close. I need to pray and consider this list more seriously. To God, my future church, the world, and myself I have a lot of work to do but I know when God has opened the door, He will guide me through it each step of the way. That’s one thing I can be sure of – for now any way.