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.

Return to List of Posts Here.

The Greatest Purpose

Have you ever wondered why you are here? What is the purpose or meaning of life? If you are like me, sometimes life can get so overwhelming that you fall on your knees and ask “why Lord?” I don’t know about you, but I am thankful that God has told us why we are here. He has told us what He wants from us. What is the great purpose of mankind? God has created us to bring Him glory, that is to exalt His name by proclaiming and displaying His great glory.

So how do we know that glorifying God is the greatest purpose of mankind? Why is it not evangelism or discipleship? Consider these teachings of Scripture with me. (All from the New English Translation)

God acts to exalt His glory (also Ps 19:1; Ezekiel 39:27)

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Isaiah 42:8, 11: I am the LORD! That is my name! I will not share my glory with anyone else, or the praise due me with idols…. For my sake alone I will act, for how can I allow my name to be defiled? I will not share my glory with anyone else!

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Sin is failing to meet the standard of God’s glory (also Rom 1:21-23; Rev 16:9).

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Romans 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

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The purpose of sanctification is to bring God glory (also 1 Peter 5:10).

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Philippians 1:9-11: And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

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Believers are commanded to act for God’s glory (also Ps 115:1; 1 Peter 4:11).

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1 Corinthians 10:31: So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

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In heaven, God’s glory will be eternally proclaimed (also Rev 7:12; 19:1)

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Revelation 4:8-11: “Each one of the four living creatures had six wings and was full of eyes all around and inside. They never rest day or night, saying: “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God, the All-Powerful, Who was and who is, and who is still to come!” And whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the one who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders throw themselves to the ground before the one who sits on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever, and they offer their crowns before his throne, saying: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, since you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created!”

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Based on these Scriptures, as well as many others, I believe that God acts to display and proclaim His glory. I believe that it is the greatest privilege, honor, and command for us as His created beings –both individually and corporately as the church- to do this as well.

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Ephesians 3:21: to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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So where then does evangelism and discipleship fit in? They are means to glorify God! God is glorified when we share the hope of the Gospel. God is glorified when we work together to become disciples of Christ. But are these the only ways to glorify God? No! Every action a believer takes, and every choice they make is an opportunity to glorify God. When a husband loves His wife, God is glorified. When parents discipline their child, God is glorified. When believers gather together to worship, God is glorified.

God is glorified when we proclaim His glory through acts such as worship, prayer, and evangelism. God is glorified when we reflect His glory through acts such as obedience and sanctification (the process of becoming more like Christ).

The greatest purpose that we could ever strive for both individually and corporately as a church is glorifying God by proclaiming and displaying His great glory.

 

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Nothing but Christ Crucified

Facebook seems to know a lot about me. I’m pretty sure that they know I’m a pastor. Why do I think that? Well whenever I go through my news feed there are advertisements for church marketing programs. Yes, church marketing programs. It amazes me how many strategies there are for church growth. Now, while I do not believe that having a strategy for evangelism or church growth is useless, I do believe that Scripture has given us what should be our primary strategy for church growth: preaching the gospel of Christ.

Consider with me the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians:

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“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God. For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling. My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 | New English Translation

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When Paul arrived at Corinth he didn’t try a “5 steps to church growth” system. He didn’t attempt to be “trendy,” “wise,” or “relevant.” Instead he simply and humbly proclaimed the message of the Gospel. He demonstrated the transforming power of the Holy Spirit by how he lived. Even though this message was considered foolish to those perishing, Paul knew that it was the only message of salvation and power (1 Cor 1:18). He knew that if he used eloquent words to attract people, those attracted would eventually fade away. So instead Paul preached the gospel of Christ. He preached that people had fallen short of God’s glory, but that they could enter into a relationship with Him and then live for Him – just as he himself was doing.

Now, when it comes to church growth there are two important truths to remember. First, healthy churches will usually see church growth (Acts 2:47). Secondly though, church growth doesn’t prove that a church is healthy (Isa 9:16; Acts 20:30). So while church growth can be a “helpful metric” to consider, it cannot become the primary focus of the church. Otherwise, any method of getting people into church –even crazy ideas like offering $1,000 per visitor- would need to be considered. That is why I humbly believe that if church growth becomes the primary focus of the church – instead of glorifying God- it becomes a false god.

So does that mean there is no “strategy for church growth?” Not at all! I believe that the greatest strategy for church growth is to boldly proclaim the gospel. That is, we must proclaim that everyone has fallen short of God’s glory, that only Christ can get us rightly related to God, and that we have been created to live for God’s glory.

What might this look like? Well sometimes it will be calling sinners to repent of falling short of God’s glory. So perhaps talking to a co-worker, neighbor, or even stranger about their need of Christ. Other times it will be calling each other to faithfully live for God’s glory –whether corporately through preaching, or individually through relationships with other believers.

While there are many different strategies for church growth, if church growth becomes our goal we will have lost sight of what is most important. Instead, we should focus on proclaiming the gospel’s power to transform us from sinners fighting against God into faithful glorifiers of God.

Return to List of Posts Here.