Tag Archives: preaching the Gospel

The Simplicity of Preaching the Gospel

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6, ESV)

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Gospel is the fact that it is simple and straightforward. The preacher of the Gospel does not have to try to trick people into believing something without evidence, nor does he have to explain away things in the Bible that contradict what he believes. The truth is open and above-board in every sense and its preaching brings light and freedom in Christ.

There will be some who will not listen, and others who will hear but claim to not see. Some do not want to know what God says, others are blinded by their own assumptions and opinions. Even in such instances the Gospel of truth is available if such individuals change their hearts and want to see it.

We cannot preach ourselves or our own doctrine, for our beliefs and preferences do not matter. All we can preach is Jesus Christ as Lord, because we are his servants. If we do so, God will be glorified, the truth verified, and the faithful hearer sanctified.

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3 of the Greatest Lessons I’ve Learned as a Preacher

     As of this fall, I have been working as a preacher in the pulpit nearly every Sunday for the last decade. While I know that is not a lot of time for some people, there are many things that come to light in a decade’s worth of experience. Many things have changed for me over that time, some things have stayed the same. Allow me to take a moment to tell you about the three biggest things I’ve learned in the last 10 years as a preacher.

     Everyone is different. “Oh come on, everyone knows that,” is the most frequent reply. However, for a preacher this is a very important consideration and one that impacts everything that we do. While intuitively we understand that each person is different, people don’t always anticipate just how deep those differences can go and just how much it requires flexibility as a preacher.

     Because everyone is different, I cannot work at just one level. I preach and teach every Sunday to some people who know a great deal about the Bible and some who know very little. Therefore, the preacher cannot assume that the audience knows and understands all of the basics and fundamentals and only speak to the higher levels of understanding; nor can he only preach fundamentals and never get into the meat of the word. Finding that balance is tricky, but absolutely essential to fulfilling our responsibilities.

     Equally important in this area is the recognition that every Bible study will be different. I don’t think I have ever had two Bible studies that started in exactly the same place. I have studied with people who are highly educated and adults who could barely read. I have studied with people who believe they know everything the Bible has to say and people who will readily admit they know very little, if anything, about it. I could not tell you that I “always” start a Bible study a certain way, because I have found that to be impossible. Everyone is different, and each person has a different starting point. The preacher must be flexible to that.

     Humility is essential to effectiveness. There are two areas in which this understanding is the most important. The first is in preaching and teaching. As a preacher, you may have gone to preaching school, college, or the school of hard knocks, but rest assured you don’t know everything. Every member in the congregation has the ability to teach you something, whether it be from life or Scripture. I never understood the intricacies of Jesus’ interaction with the fig tree (Mat. 21) until a member who had one in his yard explained some of the nuances of how they work. There are many areas of wisdom and understanding that the preacher can and should learn from those around him (older and younger); but he must be humble enough to see them, desire them, and grasp them.

     The other area is in the realm of church problems. The preacher has to be humble and self-aware enough to recognize his own strengths and weaknesses. When members have problems with you (and they will), the wise preacher will not assume they are simply blowing smoke. Sometimes it is because they want you to be a carbon copy of some other preacher (which you cannot be), sometimes it is because you stand for truth they don’t like (something you cannot change), but sometimes it is because you are falling short in an area where you are weak. Do not respond by saying: “That’s just the way I am, they can take me or leave me.” They’ll leave you and you will have failed in your work because of your own pride. Instead, be humble enough to admit your mistakes and shortcomings, then honestly and genuinely strive to improve them. They may never become strengths, but your honesty and hard work will be noticed and it will be respected.

     God answers prayers. Again, some would consider this a “duh” statement, but the reality is that this full conviction and realization is vital to the preacher’s mental and spiritual health and determination. My wife and I have always prayed that God would help us to be placed where we are needed and can be of the most use. I fully believe God has answered that prayer. While that has not meant working with a large salary and the amenities some preachers have, it has given a confidence that we are where we need to be, doing what we need to be doing. That is a great blessing and gives great peace of mind.

     Understanding this point is also vital in other areas. It is my firm conviction that a man should never enter a teaching situation without prayer (and I’m not talking about a public assembly prayer). The last person you talk to before addressing others (publicly or privately) should be the Lord. It is important for your mindset, your emotional balance, and your relationship with him as his servant. It is also important when seeking to reach out to others. Prayers to God for open doors never fail to be answered positively if we are diligent in watching for them. Sometimes they come to us, other times they require us to go to them. Without a doubt, prayer is one of the most vital components to effectively working as a preacher.

     Maybe these are all things you knew, maybe these are a given for some, but for most (myself included) they are lessons that are easily communicated but much more difficult to fully learn and appreciate. As a preacher, these things must be remembered and utilized every day as we seek to serve God. For those who are not preachers: encourage your preachers with all your might. Pray for them, love them, help them wherever you can, and thank God for them.

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What Makes a Good Preacher?

If you were to look at “preacher needed” lists you would find a number of different criteria that congregations consider necessary for a preacher to be a “good fit” to come work with them. You will find everything from age, salary, education, size of family, current location, and other factors that people use to determine who is adequate to preach God’s Word before them. That being said, let me ask a question: what makes a good preacher, and what attributes should we be looking for in a preacher?

Let us begin by showing what is not necessary to make a good preacher.
A good preacher is not made by education. Some have argued that an individual cannot be a competent preacher without a preaching school or Christian college education. Yet when examining the New Testament, Paul was a highly educated Jewish scholar and Pharisee, Peter was a fisherman with little formal education. Obviously, it was not formal education that was the difference.
A good preacher is not made by age. Some will only consider preachers in certain age groups, considering those younger to be too troublesome and those older to be too feeble. Yet Paul was approximately in his 40’s when he was converted and preached until his death some 25 years later; on the other hand, the apostles were in their late 20’s and early 30’s when the church began, and the examples of Timothy and others like him show the benefit of young preachers in the first century. Therefore, age is not the key.
A good preacher is not made by experience. An examination of Scripture shows a number of men, from Demas to Barnabas, who with age and experience still made mistakes about which they should have known better. Yet there are those who believe that experience is the key to a preacher not making mistakes and being reliable.
A good preacher is not made by his family background. Sometimes one is expected to be a good preacher because of the family in which he was raised; or, if he is not from a Christian home, his family history is counted against him. However, Paul and Barnabas are the epitome of those raised with the recognition of, and in the service of, God. By the same token you have Timothy who was half-Jew, half-Gentile and Titus who was fully Gentile. Obviously one’s family history was not the determining factor of a good preacher in first century times.
A good preacher is not determined by oratory skills. Jesus could keep audiences mesmerized with his stories and communication, but Paul was one who described himself as “rude in speech” (2 Cor. 11:6), the term “rude” coming from the Greek word “idiotes” from which we get the English word “idiot,” meaning “unskilled.” Therefore, one’s oratory skills do not determine whether or not he is a good preacher.

Then what does make a man a good preacher?
A good preacher loves God above all else. Jesus stated that the greatest commandment was to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is impossible for one to be a good preacher of the Gospel if he does not love God more than anything or anyone in this world; and, because of that love, he must be thereby willing to make any adjustment necessary to his own life to serve God completely.
A good preacher handles God’s Word correctly. There are many physical and historical shortcomings a good preacher can overcome with a solid grasp and utilization of God’s Word. Paul said that such actions keep one from being ashamed and make the preacher approved before God (2 Tim. 2:15). The good preacher goes out of his way to put aside the foolishness of men and place God’s Word as the priority of truth.
A good preacher is consistent with his proclamation of the Word. Preachers get in trouble when they try to state one thing to one group and then make exceptions or exemptions God has not authorized to another group. Paul told Timothy to be consistent “in season, out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2), when God’s Word is popular and when it is not. A good preacher will not try to skirt around God’s Word, nor will he apologize for the teachings of truth; but will consistently and without reservation proclaim the commands of God in their fullness.
A good preacher loves the souls of all men. Paul was willing to adapt his approach to men of varied backgrounds so that he might bring them to Christ (1 Cor. 10:32-33). For some preachers, the temptation is there to have the “my way or the highway” approach to preaching the Gospel, and anything that doesn’t fit into their framework of how the Gospel should be presented is wrong and useless. However, the good preacher recognizes the necessity of flexibility in presenting the Gospel to people of varied backgrounds and ideologies with the desire to bring them to truth. He also is one who does not hold grudges against those who have wounded him over time, but desires more than anything else for those souls to be right with God. If repentance comes, the good preacher is the first to welcome a brother back and will never put himself in the place of God when it comes to judging the hearts of men.

Please understand, the things stated above in the first section are valuable and can be very important in helping men do the work of an evangelist well: but they are not absolutely necessary, nor are they the most important aspects of an effective preacher. The Bible shows with absolute clarity that the preacher that is considered by God to be a “good preacher” is one that puts him first, loves his Word, and loves the souls of men. If that is God’s opinion, what right have we to go beyond it?

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