It is Sunday morning, the brethren are all set, sitting in their chairs or pews waiting to listen for the message that the preacher is about to deliver. When the preacher opens his mouth, he starts talking about…. What?
When a person visits the school building of the Memphis School of Preaching, as soon as he or she opens the front door, they will see a huge art made on the floor, the school name, a globe, a hand holding the Bible, and the school motto, “Preach the Word”. Same three words that were the theme of their lectureship in 2016, when they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the school. But these words are not the idea or inspiration of any actual or former faculty member. These three words come from the Bible,
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).
The Apostle Paul, in his purpose of encouraging and guiding his son in the faith, Timothy, provided to him, through his letters, important details that this young man will need to know in order to fulfill his ministry. One of them, as the text above, was to encourage him to preach what must be preached.
Today, we fight not only against those who teach false doctrine, but also with those who do not dedicate the required time to study God’s Word so they can prepare a sound and faithful sermons that are filled with His Word. Instead, there are too many that go online, pick a “sermon” written by someone else (worst if it comes from a denominational “pastor”), and attempts to preach it, without giving the diligence on seeking if what is saying is right or what it implies is according to the will of God. There are others that pick one verse and decides to use it as his text for the entire lesson, but only read that passage at the beginning, forget about it, and dedicates the time on preaching about his personal experiences.
This paragraph is kind of an adapted version of what some of this writer’s mentors and instructors taught on the importance of the time of the sermon. Time is important and valuable. According to an article from a known newspaper in Panama, in this country, the minimum salary is the highest in Latin America, being a monthly amount of $744. Doing a quick calculation, for a person that works 40 hours a week, 4 weeks at a month, this could be around $4.60 by the hour. Our brethren take, in some cases, around two hours to come and go to and from the services every Sunday, having at least 30 minutes to listen to the preacher deliver the message of the day. If we are talking to a thirty members congregation, we are taking about 15 hours of their work time (as a group), and about $69 from their salaries (as a group). While it might look as small numbers, what is important is that they are taking that time off of their daily routines, to come and worship God, and they deserve that the preacher does not dedicate that time on complaining about the government, or his life, or telling stories about things that happened to him. They come to hear about God, and they deserve to listen to the Word of God, and not to the word and life of the preacher. Yes, it is true, there are some good stories that we can share in the pulpit, but, there are better and more edifying and true facts that are history in the Word of God that can fulfill a better purpose. That is a big reason why we must fill our sermons with God’s Word and not our word.
It is not only about what Paul told Timothy, “preach the word”, but also what our Lord and Savior told the apostles,
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature [emphasis added, MR]” (Mark 16:15).
The inspired writer Matthew wrote the same idea with a little change in his words,
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).
The apostle Peter wrote,
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).
And, going back to the letter from Paul to Timothy,
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Everything, absolutely everything that the preacher needs every time he speaks to the congregation, is found in that little book that we called The Bible. That is the book that the brethren need to listen as they come to the services. They deserve to listen to the Word of God being preached boldly. There is nothing wrong in bringing some recent news or experiences to the message, but those are not to be the full content or main idea of the sermon.
Paul wrote to the Romans about the need of preaching,
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14-15).
We need brave and faithful men who stand for the Truth, which is the Word of God (John 17:17), and goes out and preach it, not what they want to say, or what they think needs to be said, but what God wants every man to listen.
“Preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season…”
We must proclaim the Word of God whether people listen or not. Christianity is 24/7 and we must realize that. It is not as the secular works that were mentioned earlier, and certainly is not about the salary, because there are some out there that are preaching without an income, but they do it because they know that there is a greater reward.
“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12).
Our Lord keeps His promises always, and this one is still there. We must remain strong in doing His will, being ready for the day when He comes.
“Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.”
Paul never told Timothy to preach only on the pretty things of life. Neither he told him to do it only on what is wrong in the world. And certainly, he did not tell Timothy to talk about himself. Whosoever preaches, needs to avoid the error of start talking about himself. It is not about us, it is about God! When we keep preaching and telling to the brethren how great we are, then, we stop realizing that we are not that great, and they can see and understand why. As that famous phrase “there is no I in Team”, well, there is no I in Preach. We are all part of the same team, the body of Christ, His Church. We are all appointed to the same goal, to go to Heaven, to be with Him. We, preachers, need to understand that whatever we do, is not for ourselves, but to glorify God, and this is not only for preachers, but for everyone who identifies himself or herself as Christian.
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).
Let us teach and preach the Word of God, in all her majesty, as God provided it to us. We can tell stories about ourselves after the service, but, dear brethren, while we are reunited to praise and bring glory to Him, let us do that, just that. He deserves the best of us as He always gives us the best of Him.
God bless you!