If anyone in this world is misunderstood, it is definitely the preacher.
Years before God called me to preach, I thought I understood pastors. They had it made; they preached a few times per week (meaning they worked about three hours per week), they visited a couple of people in the hospitals (another hour per week), and spent a little bit of time studying (maybe another hour or two) and got paid for doing it. What a life!
Boy, was I wrong! I’ve not yet had the opportunity, or perhaps I should say privilege and honor, of being a pastor. I have been preaching on Sunday evenings for over a year now and occasionally fill in for our pastor when he is ill or out-of-town. Experience has taught me that there is a lot more that goes into preaching than a non-preacher will ever know.
On average, it takes me approximately four hours of study to preach one sermon. Imagine if pastors take four hours to study for one sermon and they have to preach three or four sermons per week. That’s between twelve and sixteen hours of time spent just in studying for sermons, not including the time spent in prayer for their congregations and in asking God to fill their preaching with power from on high.
I have met people who believe pastors and preachers live perfect lives and are not down to earth. That is not the case. Preachers are made of flesh and blood just like everyone else is. I’ve met folks who think preachers are hard-hearted and don’t understand why people they preach to do the things they do. That’s not true either. Every preacher has made mistakes. Every preacher has battled with sin. Every preacher has sat in a pew and been preached to. We get it. We understand. There are folks who feel like the preacher is out to get them. They feel like he directs every message right at them – trying to purposely inflict pain on them. That’s not true either. Well, maybe it is in a strange kind of way. You see, the Bible is sharper than any two-edged sword. It is meant to cause some pain sometimes. Sometimes pain is needed for growth. Sometimes God directs the preacher man to tan your hide with the Word of God – not to hurt you, but to help you.
Did you know God tells a preacher how to preach? Take a look at 2 Timothy 4:2. It tells the preacher there are three types of preaching he is to do; reprove, rebuke, and exhort.
According to the Webster’s Dictionary 1828, the word reprove means “to blame,” “to charge with a fault to the face,” or to “convince of a fault.” Members of the congregation ought not to get offended when the pastor preaches on their sins and blames them for doing wrong. That’s what God tells the preacher to do. That preacher is obeying God when he points his finger in your face and says “No, what you’re doing is wrong!”
The same dictionary says the work rebuke means “to check or restrain,” “to chasten; to punish; to afflict for correction.” Sometimes the man of God has to go a little bit further than just to preach about general sins. Sometimes, God wants that man of God to stomp on your toes – to stomp those little piggies so hard it leaves them bruised. He wants him to preach specifically on the sin you are committing. He’s not doing that to pick on you. He’s doing that because God knows you’re not going to grow spiritually unless that preacher obeys God and rebukes the flock.
Do you remember me saying there were three types of preaching? Did you notice the first two have to do with pointing out sins? Do you think that’s easy for a preacher? How would you like to stand up in front of a group of people and tell them they’re wrong? It’s not an easy thing to do. But the role of a preacher is to help his congregation grow. It’s just like the role of a parent teaching their children it’s wrong to stick their fingers in the electric outlets or wrong to run out in the road. It’s not mean of a parent to spank their children for disobeying what they’ve been taught. Nor is it wrong for a preacher to reprove or rebuke their congregation in order to help them grow closer to God.
The Webster’s Dictionary 1828 defines the third type of preaching, exhortation, as “to incite by words or advice, to animate or urge by arguments to a good deed or to any laudable conduct or course of action.” The third type of preaching is still not to tickle the congregation member’s ears and tell them how wonderful they are. It’s to encourage them to do more for God – to go soul winning, to pray more fervently, to reach out to the needy, etc.
I once heard a story about a pastor who had just taken on a new church. In his first message, he preached hot and heavy against the use of tobacco. After the service, the deacon board approached him and said “You can’t preach on tobacco. We have several tobacco farmers at our church and they’ll leave.” The next service, the pastor preached a message against secular music. The deacon board came up to him after church and said, “You can’t preach on secular music. Ole so and so is a disc jockey for the rock n’ roll station. If you make him mad, his whole family will leave.” At the next service, the new pastor preached against the love of money. Here came the deacon board. “How dare you preach on the love of money? We have a millionaire in our church. Without his tithe coming in, we won’t be able to pay our bills.”
Feeling frustrated, the new pastor said, “Okay, so I can’t preach against tobacco, I can’t preach against secular music, I can’t preach about the love of money. What can I preach on?”
An older deacon, and a charter member of the church, put his finger up to his forehead and thought for a moment. He then said, “Why don’t you preach on how to discipline children? Nobody in the congregation has any children living with them. That shouldn’t offend anyone.”
Sadly, that’s where many churches are today. They want their preachers to preach on sin – just not the sins they commit. In their minds, they justify what they are doing. They want the preacher to preach to the person sitting across the aisle from them or to the person that’s not in church at all. Just as long as he doesn’t tell them what they need to change.
No matter what church you attend, please keep a few things in mind.
- Your pastor has a job to do. He is not trying to hurt you by preaching on sin, by stomping on your toes, or by trying to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and do something for God. He is trying to help you, even if the help he’s trying to give hurts.
- The preacher puts a lot of time and prayer into his messages. Don’t be so quick to criticize and point out the faults of his message. He is only human. If you do hear him say something that you believe is out of line with the Bible, go home and check it out. Spend three to four hours studying the topic, just like the preacher did before he delivered his sermon. If, after studying for a few hours, you still feel like he made a mistake, talk to him one-on-one about it with an open mind and heart. Perhaps he did make a mistake. Perhaps you’re mistaken. Either way, remember he was not intentionally trying to deceive or hurt you.
- Ask yourself why you go to church. Do you go because you know a Christian should be in church and it’s the right thing to do? Do you go because you enjoy the friendships you have with people in the church? Do you go because you want your children to grow up in church? Or do you go so you can honor God and so you can learn what you could be doing to better serve the Almighty God who created you?
Sometimes I feel like the majority of the messages God gives me come across as being a little harsh. Still, I have to preach what God gives me. He tells me to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. If you notice, two-thirds of the messages are supposed to be on sin. I don’t intentionally offend folks, but sometimes I know folks get offended. I don’t think they come to church looking to get offended, but nobody likes to be told they are wrong. Nobody likes to have someone else point out their shortcomings or their sins. It’s easy to go into a defensive mode when you feel like someone is telling you what to do or what not to do. I understand that. I get preached to as well.
Sometimes the preaching I hear steps on my toes. I can honestly say I enjoy that though. Looking back in my life, I am thankful for the many times my parents told me certain things I was doing were wrong. I’m thankful for the times they punished me when I failed to listen. The teaching and discipline I received helped me become who I am today. I appreciate preachers who will point out my sins and show me where I’m wrong. Even though it’s unnatural for our flesh to enjoy correction, we are a Spirit-filled people and should learn how to receive the preached Word of God.
If you are reading this blog and you don’t know 100% for sure that if you died today, you would spend an eternity in Heaven, will you please get that blessed assurance right now? It’s quite simple.
You need to acknowledge that you are a sinner and that because of your sins you are destined for an eternity in an everlasting lake of fire, better known as Hell. (Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;” and Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”)
You need to believe that Jesus Christ is God’s son, that He died for your sins, and rose from the dead. (Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”)
The only other step to salvation is praying and asking God to save you. There are no magic words. It’s you talking to God – asking Him to save your soul. (Romans 10:12-13 “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”