I came across this older blog post by Trevin Wax, Dear Pastor, Please Exegete Your Church. In it he discusses the importance for pastors to evaluate what is going on in the lives congregants.
Sermon preparation does not end with good exegesis of the Bible; it always includes good exegesis of the local congregation. The preacher who can parse Greek verbs must also be able to discern the imperatives and indicatives his own people are living by.
Great preachers not only know how to preach a particular text; they know how to preach a particular text to a particular people.
And that brings us to the practical side of sermon preparation. In order to faithfully exegete our church, we must know our people. The church is not a preaching station where individual Christians show up once a week to hear great oratory. The church is a community of believers who live together under the lordship of Christ. The preacher’s role in this community is to know the Scriptures and his people well enough to discern (through the power of the Holy Spirit) how best to exhort them faithfully and biblically.
If our enthusiasm for ”good preaching” keeps us constantly isolated from our congregation in sermon preparation, we might be shortchanging God’s people. If we are to preach effectively, we must spend time with our people, understanding how best to use the Word to train them, rebuke them, correct them, and comfort them.
Biblical exegesis and church exegesis go hand in hand.
Whenever we study the text, the faces of our people who need a word from God should be leaping from the pages.
Yesterday, during a conversation with one of my classmates who is a pastor, we talked about what it meant to pastor. We talked about how pastoring is messy work because it involves being involved in the lives of people. Public speaking is not pastoring.
The church is not a preaching station where individual Christians show up once a week to hear great oratory. The church is a community of believers who live together under the lordship of Christ. - Trevin Wax
So it naturally leads me to ask a logical question that I’ve mulled over in my mind for some time regarding very large churches. How can the ‘pastor’ who stands in front of thousands of people but not involved in any of their lives be called a pastor? Maybe that’s a bit too simplistic considering there is biblical evidence for appointment of others (elders/deacons). I also don’t want to caste dispersions on good preaching. Just because it’s large, doesn’t mean the preaching is bad or dishonest to Scripture (though we can cite hands down the ones who are). But in our culture of mega-churches and celebrity pastors, I think it is important to make a distinction since we tend to call preachers who orate in front of others ‘pastors’.
There’s also the illegitimate use of bishops that run rampant too. Thabiti Anyabwile addresses that here.
Would love to hear your thoughts.