In I Corinthians 14, Paul mentions that there are three primary tasks that the apostle lists concerning the work of the preacher.
But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.
- I Corinthians 14:3
In modern application, the one who prophesizes or preaches or proclaims is the preacher. And as I said, Paul describes the three main duties of his ministry. So in the development and presentation of our Bible school program, you've had a good example of a preacher carrying out his ministry.
The first thing that Paul mentions that a preacher should be doing is edification. This word literally means to build a house. It is used in the New Testament primarily to describe the building of the promotion of spiritual growth in other people. This work is done through actual preaching and teaching and the giving of an example, and organizing the church for service and helping the church to be organized for proper worship. That's the work of the preacher.
This is the task that Paul emphasized to Titus the evangelist when he instructed him to:
that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,
- Titus 1:5
The preacher's primary task is to use his preaching and teaching skills, to organize and to establish the local church according to the blueprint that is found here in the New Testament. So what I do in recruiting and training teachers, what I do is mobilizing resources and establishing curriculum is part of my ministry of edification, of building up of this particular church.
This word in the Greek means to call someone to come to your side. The intent of the word is to describe a calling by one person to another person for them to do what is right. For them to choose the proper mode of conduct. The preacher always has an eye on the future. Always has an eye on the betterment of the congregation for the future. And of course, the future that the preacher sees is the one where Jesus returns, where there is judgment and he prepares consciously for this particular event. If the preacher is not convinced that the Lord is returning, who's convinced?
Because part of my job is to keep my eye on that future event to make sure that we're heading towards that future event in such a way that we will arrive there successful. And you know what? This is the hardest part of the work because it is here that the preacher needs to point that sin. It's here where the preacher points out sin and weakness with the view of warning. With the view of asking the church to change repent and you know what things happen changed in a couple of thousand years, people don't like to be told that they are wrong, they don't like to be told that they're weak. Someone may say, "Well that preacher is always preaching about sin." Well, Yeah! Preaching about sin, preaching about weakness, preaching about making a change, preachers risk that the congregation shows their displeasure by taking it out on the preacher instead of their own sin or they quit, "I'll show the preacher, I'll never come back."
For example, my exhortations to be more faithful to Bible study and Bible class is easy to take for those who already come regularly. And those that don't make it because they have a job, they work shifts or in the military, they just can't physically be there. They're also saying, "yeah, give it to them." But for those who don't come, because they don't want to give the time, for those who don't come because they don't want to give the effort. It's not a complicated thing, I don't want to do that because I want to do something else. TV, fix my car, sit around, whatever. So to be told their behavior is spiritually immature and possibly harmful to themselves and others, is not easy. I can usually tell who's not happy.
We're all happy to see the preacher is God's messenger. We're happy to see him as God's messenger when he brings us good or comforting news, but we're not willing to acknowledge that he's the same God's messenger when he tells us what to do. Then he's not God's messenger anymore he's just a Midland school.
The original Greek comes from the exact same root word that is translated exhortation, but it's translated as the English word consolation when used in a different context. So consolation also means to call through one side or to bring alongside, but it means to do it with more tenderness. It's encouragement not just to do right, but rather the giving of encouragement to help somebody feel right. Preaching, teaching, especially counseling that strengthen those that are weak in their faith, troubled by adversity, suffering because of trials and illness, this is the most recognizable and most desired part of a preacher's ministry to the church. It's what the church likes to see him doing.
Everyone provides these things to other people in the church, not just the preacher, but Paul says that the preacher is a leader, an example for this in his preaching teaching and in his lifestyle. And I suppose the great difficulty many preachers face is that churches want this consolation part of his ministry without accepting the necessity of responding to the preacher's work in exhortation. They want consolation, but they don't want exhortation. In other words, it's okay when the preacher helps us feel right, but we don't like it when he tells us to do right.
Why review the preacher's job description?
I want you to know what the Bible says the preacher is supposed to be doing. I want you to know so you can judge the work of your preacher. I want you to know so you can pray for your preacher and you can exhort them if they get away from the tasks that the Lord has given them to do.
It is so easy to get away from this path as a preacher. It's so easy to start worrying more about striping the parking lot and fixing the chairs, and answering the phone and ordering this gadget or that gadget. You see, even preachers need to be reminded and exhorted from time to time.
I'm giving you this review because I wanted to gently exhort you to do better than you have been doing. You are a wonderful dynamically gifted and loving congregation, but many of you do not know your Bible very well and you are easily drawn into the busyness of this world. You're not bad people, but you are awfully busy people.
I wanted to give you an opportunity to rearrange your priorities and recommit yourself to more serious Bible study and more attendance at services. What better opportunity to make a change than now?
Finally, I wanted to remind you that, that I do care for your soul. All I do is ministry. Now that may not be healthy. That not may not be wise, according to modern psychology. If I was on Oprah, she'd be saying now that's not good Michael. But I'll tell you, aside from my family, my only focus, my only true interests is the church, especially this congregation. That's all I do. Regardless of the physical impossibility of ministering to each one of you personally, I can tell you honestly that there isn't a time that you struggle spiritually and I do not feel the burden of it. There isn't a member who leaves because of hurt or anger that I do not personally grief for. There isn't a visitor that comes through that door that I don't feel anxiety over until they are securely part of our family.
Paul speaks of the persecution that he has suffered for his preaching. And then he says concerning his feelings for the church:
28Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?
- II Corinthians 11:28-29
Obviously, I don't have the ministry of Paul, but I can relate to his emotional attachment to this church. I not only live in the church building, but the church lives in me as it moves and breathes, so do I for good or bad. And I say this because I want you to understand how serious I am when I do exhort you for some matter or another. It is never a small thing for me to encourage you to do better. In the end, my ministry among you will not be judged by how big this congregation becomes. Although I hope we do grow. This is biblical. This is pleasing to God, but no, in the end, my ministry will be judged by God on whether or not you will remain faithful to Jesus Christ. And it is always with my eye on this future goal, that I build, that I exhort and that I invite you each week to consider the condition of your soul and respond to the invitation to obey and to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior in repentance and baptism or in a renewed commitment to service.
I call on you this morning to do better. You can do it. I know you can do it. And I call on those who need to respond to the spirit of God that calls them each day to be saved, to be renewed in Christ, to become faithful again, to grow. If you have a need to respond in a public way this morning, we encourage you to do that. If you have a prayer request, you have those blue cards that you can fill out and we will honor those after we sing the song of encouragement.