Preaching vs Pastoring: Asking Some Honest Questions

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.

Dear Contemporary Evangelical Pastor, On Easter….

eastercrossAt this time of the year, I’m sure you are super busy with Easter preparations and what may very well be your biggest church event. I truly hope that your services go well and that you bask in the hope this day represents.

However, I’ve noticed some tendencies that may not do the day, or Christ, justice and I wanted to express those to you in consideration of the day that celebrates the one signifying event of Christianity – the resurrection of Christ.

You know that this is the one time of the year where people buy new clothes and attend a church that goes neglected throughout the year (except for Christmas). You may be tempted to turn up the volume and make the church really attractive by putting on a good production. Bright lights and flashy shows may impress people and want them to come back. But it also conditions them to expect that Christianity must be cool because it has good entertainment. That is not the point – on Easter or any other Sunday. Actually, it can be kind of deceptive to do something different on Easter than you do the rest of the year…and a bit dishonest.

You may be tempted to look at the swelled crowd as an opportunity to grow your church and pull off those numbers that mean you hit it big.  You may think that a large crowd gathered at the altar in response to say a prayer means that you are succeeding. But remember that church growth comes through discipleship, intentional involvement in people’s lives 365 days of the year. Don’t put all your eggs into the Easter basket. Success is in the faithfulness to Christ and his word not how many people suddenly surge on one day out of the year. Besides, the Lord adds to the church anyway. Continue reading

Watering Down the Water Hole May Leave Us Dry

Well, in keeping with my ecclesiology kick of late, I’d thought I’d expand on a couple of articles related to the nature and purpose of the local assembly. In my latest post at Parchment and Pen, I questioned the need for cultural relevance to pull off what we do on Sundays. While I am not opposed to cultural relevance per se, I contend that our corporate worship gatherings should be faithful to its task, which I think Ephesians 4:11-16 is a foundational passage combined with the instruction in pastoral epistles.

The imagery I get from what our gathering should be is a watering hole. While the informal definition has been used to describe a bar where people gather for the purpose of imbibing, the technical definition is this – “A small natural depression in which water collects, especially a pool where animals come to drink.” I think that is one cool imagery! As believers, we are hungry, thirsty, wavering sheep. Our corporate gatherings should refresh and feed us. They should not wear us out, wrack us with guilt or leave us feeling insufficient in our own efforts. That is why the gospel must be the foundation for everything that is done on Sunday mornings, not just the tagline at the end of “you-need-to-do-better” sermon.

Now throughout the history of the Christian church since the days of the apostles, there has been some significant splintering in terms of church structures, including the liturgy and governance of the church. Oh and the btw, every church has liturgy. The question is what does it look like and more importantly, is it faithful to it’s purpose commanded in scripture.  Continue reading

The Angry Preacher

I thought of this adage today – you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It occurs to me that the same goes for preaching and teaching also. After all, people don’t respond well to vinegar. Interestingly, I posted this on Facebook and it generated some passionate discussion. One pastor was insistent that the church today needed a strong word, suggesting that there were too many slothful people sitting in the pews. He also cited examples of Jesus rebuke of the Pharisees.

Now I do believe there is a place for reproof and rebuke.  Confrontation of false teaching in the church is certainly grounds as well as a willfully sinning brother or sister. But I’m also reminded from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that it is scripture that reproves and rebukes. And the work of the Holy Spirit!. Moreover, Jesus confronted hard hearted unbelieving self-righteous group. That is different than believers who need to learn and grow. If the preacher adopts a consistent tone of anger, I can’t help but think there is something of self-interest involved even if it wears a spiritual dress (like filling seats, getting more volunteers, alignment with pet agendas, etc)

Moreover, if the congregation responds to an angry tone to do whatever the pastor is pounding the pulpit about, is it because of fear and a desire to make the pastor happy OR is it because of true conviction from the Holy Spirit? I think the former will only foster legalism so that everyone conforms to demands while the latter produces true growth. Anger can actually get in the way of the spiritual growth.

Except in rare cases, I don’t think preaching needs to be done with anger.