Preaching, Prayer, & People

Over the last months as I have been thinking through the ministry of being an under-shepherd, I must confess that I have been overwhelmed at times. There are so many aspects of pastoral ministry that require great attention! However, as I continued to think through the ministry of an under-shepherd, my mind came to rest on three words. Three words that I believe capture the most important aspects of pastoral ministry. These words are Preaching, Prayer, and People. I believe that each one of these is foundational to ministry. Each one is vitally important to making disciples whose life purpose is bringing glory to God. Let me explain what I mean.

Preaching

In 2 Timothy Paul says this:

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“I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction. For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths. You, however, be self-controlled in all things, endure hardship, do an evangelist’s work, fulfill your ministry.”

-2 Timothy 4:1-5 | New English Translation

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Preaching is essential to growing God-glorifying disciples as the Word of God has the power to transform hearts (Heb 4:12). Good preaching not only helps the listener know more about God (aka teaching) but also -through the power of the Spirit- instructs the listener on what they can and must do to bring glory to God. While the Sunday morning message might be the most visible form of preaching, it is not the only “preaching” that pastors must engage in. From small group settings (such as Sunday School classes, and events) to one on one conversations, every opportunity is a chance to speak the transforming Word of God.

Prayer

Prayer is not only the means by which we praise and thank God for His many good gifts, but also the means by which we petition His power to work in and through us. When prayer comes by faith from the heart of a repentant, dependent believer it is powerful (James 5:16b). Without praying for the Spirit of God to empower an under-shepherd’s ministry, that ministry will be nothing more than a human effort bound to end in failure and emptiness. Ministerial effectiveness can only be found when the preacher and those around him pray for God’s working in them and through them.

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“Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak– that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak.”

-Ephesians 6:19-20 | New English Translation

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Prayer is powerful. Without it we are powerless. So Pastors must spend time on their knees petitioning God to work in them and through them.

People

The purpose of preaching and prayer is to transform people from those who glorify and worship themselves into those who glorify and worship God.

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“There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one.”

-Romans 3:10-12 | New English Translation

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Left to our own ways we will worship ourselves. Only when the Gospel is preached and we pray for God’s power to work through us and in us can we be transformed into pursuing what is well pleasing to God (Rom 12:1-2). However, while we often think of this as a process each believer goes through individually, God has created relationships to help us. In fact, Christian relationships are so vital that God has mandated them!

In Hebrews 10:24 we are commanded to “spur one another on to love and good works.” In Titus 2:4 older generations are commanded to instruct and grow younger generations. Small groups, Sunday school classes, special events, having others over to your house, and even pairing individuals together for service in the church- these are all opportunities for building relationships that lead to spiritual growth and transformation. Therefore, as an under-shepherd it is vitally important not only to engage in these types of relationships, but to seek and foster them within the church body.

Preaching, praying and people. All three are vitally important in the ministry of a pastor as he seeks to shepherd people into becoming disciples of Christ who pursue God’s glory above their own.

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