How to Make an Effective Preacher

How to Make an Effective Preacher – Author Unknown by Clint Archer (original source here)

John MacArthur, as the President of our seminary, read this out at my graduation ceremony. It has haunted me and inspired me since I became a pastor eleven years ago. When I am tempted to rethink and retool the focus of my ministry, I read and reread this lyrical piece of sage advice, and I am reassured that the priority of my calling is preaching God’s word in God’s way to God’s people.

As much as I love spending time with my flock, socializing and fellowshipping, counseling and discipling, I frequently remind myself that those tasks are essential, but not primary, and must happen only if/when the sermon preparation is complete for Sunday.

My goal is to deliver a well-crafted, thoroughly researched, biblically faithful, theologically sound, and practically applicable world class sermon every week. I will never enter the pulpit unprepared or even underprepared. In times of illness or urgent pastoral duties I have asked others at the last minute (who had been tasked with having “one in the chamber” at all times) to cover for me. But I have never once tried to wing it while standing before the sacred desk.

So, I’d like to share these hardcore marching orders to you, the congregation, to help your pastor be an effective preacher…

Fling him into his office. Tear the “Office” sign from the door and nail on the sign, “Study.”

Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before a holy God and a holy text and broken hearts and a superficial flock.

Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who knows about God.

Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through. And let him come out only when he’s bruised and beaten into being a blessing. Shut his mouth forever from spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever from tripping lightly over every nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dares break the silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley.

Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God. And make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. And make him preach the Word of the living God!

Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day: “Sir, we would see Jesus!”

When at long last he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the morning paper and digest the television commentaries, and think through the day’s superficial problems, and manage the community’s weary drives, and bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can.

Command him not to come back until he’s read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard with his own prestige. Corner him with questions about God. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom. And give him no escape until he’s back against the wall of the Word.

And sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left — God’s Word.

Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.

And when he’s burned out by the flaming Word, when he’s consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he’s privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly.

Place a two-edged sword in his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant.

For he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a man of God.

Life As A Pastor: Responding to Anonymous

The shepherd’s staff serves the dual purpose of rescuing lost sheep when their heads get caught in the hedges and fending off vicious wolves who seek to devour. In the same way, when God raises up a pastor, it is a gift to the people of God – a man who demonstrates God’s love for His sheep and yet also a man fearless when God’s people need protection. A Pastor needs both a tender and a brave heart.

When God raises up a man with a shepherd’s heart, He takes much time to forge him to become more and more Christlike, so that he can more faithfully represent the Lord Jesus as the Chief Shepherd of the sheep. This forging process usually involves tough and difficult times – times even of deep despair, almost to breaking point. The Apostle Paul was brought there (2 Cor. 1:8-10) and God’s ministers are often brought to the same exact place, so that they learn complete dependence on God rather than any kind of man-made provision.

God makes His true pastors, men who love God and people. They portray genuine compassion and tenderness and yet are to be wholly resolute in the face of opposition: a man of tender heart and a thick skin. That is quite the contrast and quite the balance, and for sure, this balance is not always achieved. The best of men are men at best!

A pastor will face criticism often. He needs to know how to handle it. One thing is sure, if he does not, he will not be in ministry long. It is vital that He knows whom He serves and what pleases Him. A pastor knows, going into the ministry, that he cannot ever please everyone. Therefore His priority is to please the One who enlisted him, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. If He is sure he is doing his all to please Him (though he never does this perfectly), this is his rest and comfort at all times.

A dynamic pastor (younger than me) in an eastern state in the US wrote the following to me:

“I have a question for you as an experienced pastor…. how does a Godly pastor respond (or not respond) to “Anonymous” to this kind of email (see below)? These kinds of emails obviously hurt and I never know how to respond… in the past I have just ignored them and not bothered to respond, but I don’t know… am I wrong to not respond to these kinds of emails? I would greatly appreciate any guidance you can offer brother!”

Good afternoon,

I have a minor complaint after listening to one of your online sermons. You claim your sermons are expositional, but you spent most of your time speaking what seems to be a personal rant about how everyone is a horrible failure… I thought pastors were supposed to be at least a little bit loving, uplifting, and positive, wanting to help their parishioners grow… not being judgmental, condescending, or mean, laughing at people’s sin… I hope this was a one-time occurrence and I just wanted to give you some constructive criticism from my viewpoint.

Col. 3:12 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience”

Eph. 4:31 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice”

1. Cor. 16:14 “Let all that you do be done in love”

God bless

****

Here was my reply:

Hi Pastor ________,

Good to hear from you.

I wonder how I would respond to something like this and I think my answer would be… “I am not sure.” There’s nothing wrong with responding to an anonymous email like this, nor would it be wrong to simply ignore it.

However – if I were to respond, maybe I would write something like this: Continue reading

Why Do Churches Wound Their Pastors?

I am so blessed in getting to pastor the precious people at King’s Church. However, not every pastor’s experience mirrors mine. Here is an article about Pastors and the expectations often put upon them. (original source here)

Dan Doriani serves as vice president of strategic academic projects and professor of theology and ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary. He previously served as senior pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton, Missouri.

A renowned Reformed pastor, great preacher, visionary leader, and tender man endured such criticism from his church that he almost despaired. He told one of his confidants, “After 12 years as a pastor, I had to put a wall between myself and my people so I wouldn’t have to quit the ministry.”

“Jack” was another esteemed pastor. An excellent preacher with sterling organizational skills, he fostered healthy church growth and led numerous citywide ministries. When he retired, the leaders of the pastoral search team visited me. We spent an hour getting to know each other, then their presentation began. Before long, I felt compelled to interrupt, “Please don’t tell me your goal is to find a senior pastor who’s more of a shepherd than Jack.” Faces fell.

“How did you know?”

I replied: “Jack is friendly and socially adept, but clearly not as sociable as you are—we just spent an hour talking about our families. Jack is always busy preaching, teaching, and leading. Your church has 1,500 people, so you know he can’t know everyone. But you’re sad he doesn’t really know all 60 elders. Since you admire him, you long to know him and hope you will know your next pastor. But no one is equally gifted at everything, and everyone’s time is limited. Therefore, if this search led to a man bent on shepherding, he would inevitably be less devoted to preaching or leadership. But after 20 years with Jack, the church expects and needs a senior pastor who preaches and leads with excellence. If you want a consummate preacher, teacher, and shepherd, you want the perfect pastor.”

In short, the committee loved Jack, but they also thought, We need to fix his weakness. They forgot that everyone has weaknesses.

‘We Need to Fix Him’

My work often leads to sustained conversations with elders, unordained leaders, and pastors of large, complex churches. With rare exceptions, churches are quite vocal about the flaws of their pastors, whether newly installed or long faithful. Good churches wish it were different, but they tend to think all will be well if the pastor improves, and they take better care of him. Continue reading

About Your Pastor When He Preaches

Article by Kenneth Kuykendall (original source the articulation of his message, but what else is happening? Most of us, if we have been around preaching for any length of time, have certain ideas of what takes place when the preacher begins and when he ends. But do we really know all that is going on during the preaching hour? Probably not…including the preacher himself.

Preaching is one of the strangest events known to man; so much so, that it is considered foolishness to those who do not believe; while at the same time, it is the power of God to us who are saved. It is a paradox of the grandest kind. It is the straining of worlds together. It is the calling of lowly men to the highest of errands. The pressure is great, the stakes are high, the tension is real, but the joy is overwhelming, the grace is sufficient and the reward is heavenly. I love preaching, both in hearing it and in doing it.

In that hour, however, more is going on than exposition, application, illustrations, and invitations. There are some things happening behind that pulpit (or away from it, depending on the style of your preacher) that you don’t realize. Here are five things you probably don’t know about your pastor when he preaches:

He is Battled
Whether you mount a pulpit weekly or preach on the street corner daily, there is great opposition in the proclamation of the gospel. On every side, the man of God is enamored, hit hard, with a variety of oppressive forces. The dark dominion of the devil sets its course against those on the frontlines of battle. There is nothing the enemy hates more than a truth-toting soldier equipped to tell others what the Word of God declares. And thus, oftentimes, the preacher is the biggest target.

The congregation may see a suit and tie. They may hear the alliterated points. They may write down a title on the back of a bulletin. But beyond the natural framework of the worship service is a supernatural foe doing all he can to discourage, distract, and divert the preacher. If preaching is war, it is certain your pastor is feeling the heat during the preaching hour.

He is Burdened and Bothered
I do not mean he is annoyed. Now, he may very well be annoyed at times; but what I mean by the word “bothered” is that he has a weight upon him. This weight is part of his calling. You cannot take the weight off him. Aaron and Hur did all they could to secure the hands of Moses during the battle at Rephidim. They helped Moses bear his load, but not once did they take the rod of God out of his hands. They couldn’t…it was God’s call upon his life to bear it.

The preacher, by nature of his calling, has a weight, a burden, a bothering. He is bothered by the sinfulness of the times. He is bothered by the apathy of modern Christendom. He is bothered by his own shortcomings. He is bothered by the tragedy of split homes, broken lives, hurting people. All that he preaches is preached from the context of information that you do not necessarily have. What I mean is this: he knows the secrets, the pain, the darkness, the sadness, and the sorrow of those he leads. And many times he preaches in that context.

He is Beckoned
The preacher must stand before God before he stands in front of his congregation. He is between two worlds. And he must give an account in both! Albert Mohler said it like this, “Let’s be honest: the act of preaching would smack of unmitigated arrogance and overreaching were not for the fact that it is God himself who has given us the task. In that light, preaching is not an act of arrogance at all but rather of humility. True preaching is never an exhibition of the brilliance or intellect of the preacher but exposition of the wisdom and power of God.”

The true, God-called preacher preaches every time with the judgment seat of Christ in mind. Every word, every statement, every point, every illustration…every time is divinely examined. This reality is always in the background and in the forefront. Deep is calling unto deep in the preaching hour. God is beckoning in the heart of His messenger. He is moving, He is working, He is speaking, and the preacher must fulfill His calling, he must proclaim God’s Word in light of this weighty truth.

He is Blessed
Don’t feel too sorry for the preacher of the Word. He may be battled, burdened, and a little bothered; but he is equally blessed. He is like the disciples who distributed the bread to the masses in the desert. Those men were responsible to feed the thousands, but they were privileged to see the miracle first hand.

The preacher has already tasted the glorious meal that he prepares for his congregation. He has been in the closet praying. He has searched out the treasures of Scripture. Like an excavator, he has found the heavenly gem and longs to show his audience the glorious riches of truth. He is blessed with spiritual blessings. It is certain, if the congregation is blessed by the preaching of God’s man, the man of God who is preaching is getting blessed as well!

He is Bound
The preacher is bound by his message. He cannot preach what he has not already chewed on. E.M. Bounds said, “The preacher’s sharpest and strongest preaching should be to himself. His most difficult and laborious work must be with himself.” I cannot tell you how many times, during the preaching hour, God has illuminated truth, convicted me of sin, and prompted me by my very preaching.

The preacher who is bound to His message, His God, His calling, and His Bible is a preacher who will inevitably be free in the spirit during the hour of his preaching. No, you may never see these realities during the preaching hour, but I assure you, they are present. And if they are not, there is not much preaching going on.

What to Look for in a Pastor

Resolved Conference 2009 – Dr. John MacArthur:

Transcript:

I want to come to you, maybe on a little more personal level if I can in this session. When you get to be my age, you can kind of do whatever you want I guess, and I just want to talk to you a little bit from my heart.

I understand the spiritual battle with sin. I understand that, because I’ve lived it for a long, long time. I understand how difficult it is to live a holy life. I understand how difficult it is to maintain pure thoughts, holy thoughts, God exalting, Christ honoring thoughts. I understand how difficult it is to guard your tongue; to not say unkind things, hurtful things, sarcastic things, painful things. I understand that you lose that battle. You lose all those battles through the years. I understand how difficult it is to be godly, the most intimate environment of your life, in your marriage, with the wife you love and cherish, with your children, with the people that are closest to you. I understand what it is to disappoint the Lord, and to bear the sadness of your own soul over those disappointments that are frequent, tragically. I understand what it is to live in Romans 7, and to do what I don’t want to do and not do what I want to do. I understand what it is to be involved in sins of overt action and sins of covert action. I understand what it is to sin by not doing the thing that you ought to have done, by leaving great and needful and righteous things undone, while you preoccupy yourself with trivial things. I understand the spiritual battle. I’ve lived it. I’ve lived long enough to try to help other people fight this fight as well.

I was leaning over the bed of a man who was 78 years old, and he was dying and I said to him “What are your thoughts as you go to heaven?” 78 years old. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and he said “I just never got the victory over pornography.” What! 78 years old? That is not good news . . . for you that are struggling at 22. That is painful. It’s a long struggle. It’s a long battle. It’s a joyous thing to walk with Christ. It’s a thrilling thing to see His hand on your life. It is beyond comprehension, and it is the reason why we sing to the top of our voice “to live in grace, this grace in which we stand.” It’s a profoundly joyous thing, but there is this constant nagging reality of the ever-present war against remaining sin, the world, the flesh and the devil.

As a father, I have been concerned about the battle in my children’s life; as a grandfather, in the life of my grandchildren. I have been concerned about the struggle in my own dear wife Patricia’s life. I have been concerned about the struggle in the lives of the people around me and in the church that the Lord has given to me. I am more concerned now about you and your future in this battle than I’ve ever been. Continue reading

Fighting Burnout as a Pastor’s Wife

Erin Wheeler lives in Fayetteville, cheapest Arkansas, with her husband Brad and their four children. She attends University Baptist Church, where Brad serves as Senior Pastor.

(original source here)

We’ve all had those days. You know, the ones where you crawl into bed, makeup still on, wondering if it’s okay not to brush your teeth just this once. All the while, you wonder what actually happened to the minutes that evaporated into history.

There have been plenty of days like that for me, particularly as a young mother. But even now, when “new season” after “new season” seems to steam-roll over me, I find myself asking my heavenly Father, “Where is the time going? When do I get to catch my breath? I don’t have anything left to pour out or give to all the needs and cries for help around me. God, what does faithfulness look like when I’m empty like this?” Sometimes the old adage “the days are long, but the years are short” begins to feel more like “the days are long and the years are long.”

So, what do we do, as those God has called to be “help-mates to under-shepherds,” when the never-ending demands pummel us? Well, in many ways our calling is the same as every Christian woman’s—and every Christian man’s. We’re to take up our cross daily, and follow him (Luke 9:23). And often, that cross we bear is a call to give out of poverty, not abundance. Continue reading