Every day, I get to stand in front of a captive audience of 8-year-olds. It’s quite the responsibility to be entrusted with those children for the nine months that I have them during the school year. I used to be nervous each morning wondering how I was going to keep them interested and I how I was going to help them learn that day’s lessons. After 12 years in education, that nervousness has been replaced with the comfort of familiarity.
The same has become true of my opportunities to preach. No, I’m not a fulltime, paid pulpit minister, but I’ve had quite a few chances to preach as a fill-in or to preach a summer series sermon. After all those opportunities, I’ve taken the time to examine why I do it. The easy answer would be to say that I love God, that I want to serve him in the ways he has gifted me, and this is one of those ways. Those answers are undoubtedly true, but there are other important reasons as well.
Preaching the word is meant to encourage, instruct, and to admonish (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It’s meant to declare the truth to a lost world in desperate need of hearing the good news. I’ve found that it’s not difficult to make people feel good by talking about God’s love or his forgiveness. People are starving for the truth and lots of preachers give that to them every Sunday. Other preachers spend a lot of time talking about the coming wrath of God and how we must all repent or face the realities of hell. All of those teachings are in God’s word, but a preacher’s job is much bigger than that.
One of the main jobs of any preacher dedicated to serving God and his people is to prepare the saints for work. Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us we will reach the fullness of Christ when we become mature, actively working Christians. Preachers, myself included, are supposed to equip followers with the knowledge and tools necessary to be effective disciples for Christ. It’s not our job to entertain you or make you feel good all the time. It’s to help you grow into a better understanding of the role you play in Christ’s church.
The Bible spends a lot of time reminding us of the importance of a unified church, one where each member is working for the benefit of the whole (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). The preacher’s responsibility is to instruct and encourage saints in finding their gift and to get to work using it. “ As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:10-11).
The second verse of that passage should really weigh heavily on the hearts of all who preach God’s word. We have been given the task of speaking to others on behalf of God. Not speaking for God with our own words or thoughts, but making a thorough study of God’s word so we can teach it to others. The end result is bringing praise to God, not notoriety for ourselves for our biblical knowledge or application.
The purpose of your preacher is a great one indeed! They have a tough job, and many times a thankless one, but we can help by being good students. Be willing to learn, open to admonishment and self-examination, and get ready to work because discipleship is the job of all those who call themselves Christians.