Let The Word Do It’s Work
Pastors put in many hours preparing their messages. We open a text. We read the text. We ponder the text, and dissect the text. We parse verbs, we analyze the passage, and we compare a particular passage with other passages and the Bible as a whole.
We read other pastors’ thoughts. We meditate on the passage that we will preach. Finally, after hours of consideration, the passage begins to impact us. We catch the vision of the intention of the passage. It begins to open up for us, and we begin to be transformed by it.
Personal insights are gained, and we begin to make application for our own lives, and for the lives that we have oversight of. We begin to see the power of the passage, and how the lives of our listeners can be transformed if they understand and embrace the eternal truths that we plan to teach. We get excited, anticipating sharing these glorious discoveries and considerations with our church. We long for our church family to embrace these truths, and be blessed, convicted, and encouraged.
We enter the pulpit full of excitement and anticipation, but then a different reality hits us: The people are bored, tired, unmotivated, beat down, and apparently unresponsive. We quickly sense that they do not share the same enthusiasm that has grown in us during our time of study.
At this point in a Sunday message, this is where my well intentioned flesh tries to do the work of the Spirit. I try to “get them excited” with suggestions and admonitions. I might even rebuke them a bit for their seeming lack of appreciation for the Word that is before them.
While preaching, I begin to think to myself, “What is wrong with these people? Why are they so unresponsive to this incredible truth?” Literally, I sometimes expect some discernable excitement in the first 5 minutes of my preaching.
I want them to be blessed, but I also want to know that they are “getting it”, so I prod, cajole, prompt “amens” etc. I seek to excite them into believing the power of God’s word.
How wrong I am to do this! My excitement for a particular passage has come after many hours of study and meditation. It has taken hours for me to get excited about the passage, and now I expect the dear saints in our church to immediately share my excitement. When I sense that they don’t, I unconsciously try to stimulate them in fleshly ways.
I listen to a fair amount of preachers. I enjoy listening to sermons. I have noticed how the preachers that I am impacted by are very methodical in their presentation. They build a case, and they present the logic of a passage. They anticipate objections to the passage, and they answer those objections in their preaching. They teach the principles, they make applications, and then they walk away, trusting that God’s word will impact the listeners.
We often do not see any immediate impact that Biblical truth may have upon a person. Our listeners need time to digest the word. They need time to consider the word. They need time to wrestle with it, as we have already done.
I need to learn to not gauge the impact of my preaching by what I see on Sunday morning. I need to learn to not try to excite the people about the word of God. I need to preach the word of God, and let the Word do it’s work in the hearts of the people.
My efforts to excite and stimulate on the spot are distracting and only serve to clutter the truths that God wants to communicate through me.
May we who preach learn to let God’s Word do it’s work. May we deliver it well, concisely, clearly, and not worry about needing to gauge the effectiveness of it by what see on Sunday morning.
Great reminder, Bill. I want my sermons to be like roller coasters to people – whee! But they are more like sitting down in a restaurant. There is quiet conversation until the food comes – and then relative silence as the food is eaten. It is easy for me to interpret the silence during the sermon as people trying to decide if they want to keep listening (which, I’m sure, for some it is. Yesterday, I had a lady at your church apologize to me for sleeping during my sermon!) But maybe I should interpret the silence as the silence of satisfaction (like at a restaurant when everyone is eating).
Thank you for writing this Bill. It was a real encouragement to me, especially given the fact that I felt this last Sunday’s sermon was a real snooze fest only to be told (unsolicited) how impactful it was by two members of the church, whose faces seemed to tell me something different when I was giving it! You just never know. It keeps us humble, though I wish I didn’t feel like resigning every time I failed to deliver it as written! 🙂
Tim and Frank…..thanks for the comments and thoughts. Blessings on you both as you keep holding forth the Word of life.
It is a great blessing… and curse… to teach and preach God’s word.
A blessing (of course) in that we are privileged to handle the living and powerful Word of God. I’m quite sure I could go on for several pages about the blessing it is to study and preach His glorious Word. But I find it a great curse too, as rarely a week goes by that I do not feel as this [my favorite] quote from Spurgeon describes…
C.H. Spurgeon, “Christ Precious to Believers”