How to Still be Preaching Today
You hear about it at a lectureship or when you have lunch with some brother from another congregation... Brother so and so has quit preaching; selling real estate. Brother so and so burned out; run off on his wife; changed religion...
People you admired, people you knew are no longer preaching. They have traded or lost their pulpits for a briefcase or a different life and a new city. If it happened to them, it could happen to us.
How do we stay in preaching in the face of so many challenges, varying opportunities, temptations and discouragements? There could be a long list of things to do or avoid but I have tried to narrow it down to 5 basic things to help us stay alive today, keep us preaching into next year.
1. Read your Bible and pray every day.
Sermon preparation does not replace personal prayer and quiet reading of God's Word. God had many servants but the most successful ones were the ones who knew His Word and were devout in prayer. Daily Bible reading and the continuous dialogue with God in prayer keep us focused on the kingdom and open to the Holy Spirit's influence in our lives.
2. Concentrate on what you are good at.
Preachers spread themselves out too thin. They try to be too many things to too many people. Because of this, they make mistakes; they do not satisfy; they burn out.
God's servants did what they were good at: Moses was a great leader but backed away from speaking (so God provided Aaron). Barnabas was a good teacher, mentor, but lacked the dynamism to lead (God provided Paul). It is better to succeed at only one thing than fail at many. The Lord is aware of our strengths and weaknesses and He will supply the workers resources to make up for our lack.
3. Do not get tangled up in the world and its affairs
Paul used the imagery of a soldier needing to pay attention to his commission in order to please his superior (II Timothy 2:4).
More people leave the ministry because of "distraction" not immorality. You buy some rental property, you start a small export business, you study for a real estate license... Pretty soon the world offers you a much more attractive job and reward than your grumpy and stingy brethren are and pretty soon you convince yourself that God has blessed you with abundance in the world and you must go. You convince yourself that you will be able to do just as much but without being a burden to the church.
Paul worked to support himself and the brethren because the church was too young and too poor not because there was a booming business in tent-making. He was the exception not the rule. The Apostles left all to follow Jesus.
The world can do without another salesman or lawyer or a businessman but it desperately needs every preacher it has.
4. Deal with your personal sins
There is an entire lesson here about the need to have someone to confide in, not being proud and acknowledging that even preachers think and do stupid, shameful things.
My point today is to remind us that "not" dealing with sin in our lives is usually what destroys our ministry, not the sin itself.
The gospel is about sin and preaching is about sin and the successful preacher is the one who can not only talk about sin but one who struggles with it as well.
5. Realize that until Jesus comes, there will still be work to do after you are gone
Preachers get discouraged because there never seems to be a sense of "closure" to the work. It helps us to persevere when we understand that every servant of God had to deal with an unfinished task. Abraham saw the promise from afar. Paul died while the church was in great turmoil. We have to discipline ourselves to give our best effort today because "today's" work is all we have. Tomorrow may never come.
Staying alive today:
- Read and pray every day
- Do what you do best
- Avoid worldly entanglements
- Deal with your sins
- It is not over until Jesus comes.
There are other things of course:
- Take a course
- Have fellowship
- Get good rest and exercise
- Keep your family first.
But these have been given so we will be sensitive to the idea that the temptation to leave preaching is sometimes very great and we need to actively guard against falling away from our ministry of the Word.
Pay close attention to yourself and your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
- I Timothy 4:16
I pray that with the Lord's help and each other's encouragement we will still be preaching this time next year.