When I think of preaching, three words come to my mind to describe what a preacher preaches: sermon, message and burden. Let’s consider each of these designations.
What is a sermon? Webster defines a sermon as a discourse, grounded on a verse or passage of Scripture delivered in public, usually by a clergyman.
What is a sermonizer? A sermonizer is one who prepares and delivers sermons; however, his emphasis is more on the preparation or crafting of the sermon. A sermonizer delights in finding numerical points; preferably three. He also takes great delight in finding and using alliteration in a passage of Scripture because this helps the listener to grasp and remember what was said. In a sense, every true preacher is a sermonizer and delights in discovering Scriptural truth and preparing sermons.
A pulpiteer is a preacher who does a masterful job of presenting his sermon from the pulpit. At least he thinks he does; and he comes across to his audience as somewhat pompous. Webster says it is a contemptuous term for such a preacher. We preachers should give much time and prayer to the preparation and delivery of sermons. We should be our best, but not be overly concerned about trying to impress others with our sermon or presentation..
In my expository preaching I have found that every Scripture verse or passage does not always lend itself to a perfect three point sermon, complete with perfect alliteration. On rare occasions I will preach such a sermon, but my week is not ruined if I do not produce one.
Every sermon should be a message from God. Not every sermon does have a message or a purpose other than to show off a preacher’s scholarship or preaching ability.
A message is a sermon that regardless of style, conveys to the heart of the listener practical truth from God’s Word. When a message is preached, the listener is almost oblivious of the style of the sermon or the messenger. His whole focus is on the message.
How does a preacher get a message from God? He must walk with God, having an intimate relationship with Him and with His Word, the Bible. He must have a pure heart and be fully surrendered to God, available for God to use. Like Samuel, he must pray, “Speak Lord, for Thy servant hears.” Like Isaiah he must cry out, “Hear am I, send me” Like Paul, his prayer is, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Like the man Jesus talked about in Luke 11:5-8 he must beg God for Bread for his congregation.
Those of us who preach should realize that our main purpose in preaching should not be to simply give Bible facts to our listeners; but seek to know God’s message for them from the Bible and faithfully deliver it.
What is a burden? It is more than a sermon. It is more than a message. A burden is a message God has laid on your heart. It is so heavy that it MUST be delivered. It is not a burden that exhausts or wearies a preacher. God invigorates him to deliver it. When God has burdened my heart with a message, I can do nothing else but deliver that message. No other message will do. I come to the pulpit “chomping at the bit.” I can hardly wait to deliver it and when it is over I am totally exhausted.
The Old Testament prophets were given burdens from God to deliver to different people. Examples are found in Isaiah 13:1; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1 and Nahum 1:1 Ezekiel chapters 2 and 3 record God’s call to the prophet Ezekiel and the burden he laid on Ezekiel to bring a particular message from God. He was told what to say and was warned how the message would be received and rejected.
I am working on sermons, usually several weeks in advance. What a wonderful blessing the computer has been to me as I am able to write and store my sermons and continue to rework them right up to the day I deliver them. They normally start out as sermons. As I continue to meditate on the Scriptures and pray, I see God’s message in the sermon. Often by the time I am ready to deliver the message it has become a heavy burden on my heart.
Preacher, be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. Avoid trying to have a ministerial tone in your voice. Speak normally to your congregation on Sunday as you would if you met them in town on Monday. If God has given you a burden to deliver to your congregation, your voice and manner of speaking will have a natural intensity. It won’t be something you need to think about nor try to generate.
Finally, when you’ve finished preaching, don’t concern yourself with how well you did or what a failure you were. Don’t be discouraged! If you delivered your burden from God, leave the results in God’s hands. It may be years later that you learn of how your ministry touched lives. Certainly when we stand before God in eternity, we will learn the full impact of our ministries.
I wish I had another fifty years or more to continue studying and preaching God’s Word. But now at 78, I know my time on earth is limited. I first learned the joy and value of preaching book by book, chapter by chapter and verse by verse through the Bible back in 1963. Through the years it has grown increasingly more exciting as in my search for God’s truth I have unearthed truths for which I was not even seeking. It’s been amazing how God has led me to deal with pertinent truths just when they were needed.
Most of the articles in HIDDEN TREASURE have come from my expository preaching. Expository preaching is not simply parroting a Bible commentary. It is more than simply explaining the meaning of verses. Of course, it includes that; but an expository message comes as a preacher prayerfully seeks first the meaning of the verses to be covered. The passage being studied must be seen in its context and in its relationship to the whole Bible. Most importantly, the preacher must study the passage until he sees the message God has for his church in that passage. There must be a practical application of the passage to his own life first and then to his congregation. By the time he is ready to face his congregation he ought to be so filled with the message God has given him that he is thrilled and anxious to deliver it.
If you teach or preach or sing or play a musical instrument in church, this article is especially for you. If we are to be a blessing to others, we must minister to the heart. The heart of a person includes his intellect, his emotions and his will; the very innermost part of a person’s being.
If we only reach the intellect, but never reach the emotions and the will; our ministry has fallen short. If it only reaches the emotions, but has no connection with the intellect and the will, again it falls short. Heart-felt teaching, preaching and music reaches the intellect, the emotions and influences and moves the will to obey God.
Consider Christian music.
There is nothing sinful about rhythm and beat. But Christian music must reach deeper than simply moving the emotions and the body. The problem with much Christian music today is that the beat is so pronounced that it overwhelms the emotions and the body and drowns out the intellect. Furthermore, much of this music has a shallow non-Biblical message. If that is the case, the music has failed to reach the heart and will not move the will to obey God.
Or Christian music can go in the opposite direction. It can be so intellectual and that it passes over the average person and again it fails to reach the heart. Whether music is old or contemporary has nothing to do with the issue.
The same goes for preaching.
It can go to one of two extremes. It can be so emotional that there is no intellectual connection and fails to move the will to obey God. Or it can be so intellectual that it can leave the listener cold and unmoved. A walking Christian encyclopedia is not necessarily a spiritual Christian.
Reaching the heart is so important as we preach, teach and minister in music that we are instructed in Ephesians 5:18-19 to be filled with the Spirit constantly. Only a Spirit filled Christian can bless others with his preaching, teaching and music.
“I have been young and now am old; yet have I never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread.” Psalm 37:25 If that’s true, why do Christians beg?As I’m writing this article, I have just left my living room where I have been watching scenes of one of the worst natural disasters in recent American history; the ravages of the 2005 hurricane, Katrina, in Louisiana and Mississippi and the surrounding area. My heart is aching with grief for those destitute people in need of water, food and shelter who have lost loved ones, as well as everything they owned. For some answers as to why God allows such disasters, go to my link, Acts of God.
YOUR HELP IS NEEDED
Especially in times of crises, civic and religious relief organizations need our help. For organizations, such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross or perhaps your denomination or local church, to solicit funds and volunteers is a selfless act of mercy. We all need to do whatever we can to help those in genuine need. Rescue Missions and Christian homeless shelters deserve all the help we can give them as their employees and volunteers do an often thankless job of meeting spiritual, emotional and physical needs.
But as we do what we can to help the truly needy, we need to be aware of the Scam artists who go down through the phone book calling and begging churches for money. It’s amazing the detailed hard-luck stories they tell. I’ve heard some of the same stories repeatedly year after year. I guess some stories work well and make money for the beggar.
Some of the most sacrificial, unselfish, kind, thoughtful people I have ever met are in full time Christian service. On the other hand, some of the rudest, most thoughtless, selfish, self-centered people I have ever met are also in Christian service.Some people in Christian service have the mentality that since they are in full time Christian service that everyone owes them money and special attention. Some are rude and demanding and expect other Christians to go out of their way for them. It’s a joy to show hospitality and sacrifice for selfless, appreciative Christian servants; but it takes all the joy out of sacrifice when dealing with rude, thoughtless people who have the attitude that since they are in Christian service, everyone should cater to their whims and give them whatever they need.
Some missionaries need to raise their own support before they can be sent out to a field of service; but they must beware of developing a beggar’s mentality, expecting everyone to do special favors for them because they are “in the Lord’s work.”
Some evangelists I have known have a fixation on love offerings and travel expenses. If evangelists would concentrate their attention on avoiding canned-messages and seeking God’s message for a particular church, love offerings would meet their needs and expenses would be met. God’s people are generous. Feed the sheep and be honest with them and they will provide the wool willingly in abundance.
Pastors, get over self pity. Don’t whine because the people do not love you or care about you. Don’t whine because they do not offer you free baby sitting or yard service. I have seen some good preachers ruin their effectiveness and ministry by expressing self-pity to their congregations. Don’t complain or even hint that you are over- worked or underpaid. That is a pathetic attitude in a man of God.
Learn to live on what God supplies. Above all, understand that GOD is your source of supply. Quit looking to man for your source of supply. If you depend on your congregation, you are going to find yourself trimming your preaching so as not to offend your source of supply.
Beware of taking advantage of business people. They don’t owe you a ministerial discount. If they want to do something special for you, accept their generosity with appreciation to them and with thankfulness to God for His supply of your need.
If you are guilty of coveteousness, recognize it as a sin and confess it to God. Everything we have received has freely been given to us by the grace of God. Jesus says to us in Matthew 10:8 “Freely ye have received, freely give.” Jeremiah reminds us in Lamentations 3:22-23 “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.
“Paul encourages us in Philippians 4:6 ” Be anxious for nothing; but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” Did you note that Paul does not tell us to let our needs be known to others?
The child of God who is faithfully doing God’s will can always count on God to meet his needs, whether he is a pastor, missionary, teacher, evangelist or involved in a secular job. Note also in this verse that there must be an attitude of thankfulness to God. Thankfulness should not be difficult when we realize that we deserve nothing; that all we have, we have by the grace of God.
May God teach us to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves. Philippians 4:11-12 May we be thankful for the way He supplies all our needs Philippians 4:19 and much, much more. Ephesians 3:20-21 May we be sacrificial and discerning in our giving to the truly needy.