Take Heart, Pastors! Christ Will Build His Church!

Christ is moving and working in His church even now.  He has promised this.  He is the one to build His church.  Men may believe it’s ultimately up to them, but Christ builds His church.  Book after book is written that can, at best, serve as supplements–only the Bible carries the substance of how Christ personally and intimately builds His church.

How though, does Christ build it?  For now, let’s just see two ways that parallel the original creation.  By the Word of God, creation came into being in general; and by the Word of God the church (meaning, His organization and His people).  In 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul writes: “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.”

Hearts and minds are changes and galvanized by His glory that shines in us and by His Word that transforms. When Jesus told His disciples, “All that the Father gives to me shall come to me” (John 6:37) and all through the first part of Acts that, through the preaching of the gospel to all who would listen, that “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:39).  When we realize that the word ‘church’ comes from the Greek word ‘ekklesia,’ which means ‘called out ones,’ it is Christ who is calling out those whom God has chosen unto Himself.  It will happen.  He’s building His church.

MacArthur rightly said,

By human reason, persuasiveness, and diligence it is possible to win converts to an organization, a cause, a personality, and to many other things.  But it is totally impossible to win a convert to the spiritual church of Jesus Christ apart from the sovereign God’s own Word and Spirit.  Human effort can produce only human results. God alone can produce divine results.

It’s His church.  We are not simply projects, but are people, souls that Christ is intimately personal with. Recently, I watched an interview with Brett Favre, former Green Bay quarterback.  He holds most every QB record in the book when he retired.  His father was a football coach–and His Father never told him how proud he was of him.  He told others, but never Brett.  Brett understood his father loved him in his own way, but never saw it demonstrated.

Daily, Christ is showing us how much He loves His church, which we will see in a bit.  But He loves you.  Not your religious activities, but your relationship with him, from which those activities arise.

Christ will build His church. And we know that when Christ makes a promise, He never fails to follow through. In Titus, Paul by the Spirit says that God cannot lie (your versions may say does not lie, as if he had a choice to lie or not, but the Word is an absolute–He cannot lie).

Do we truly believe He will build His church? Do we really take God at His Word as to what He wants His church to be?  What would happen if God moved in our hearts and spirits by His Spirit and we said, “Lord, I trust you to build your church your way, not mine.” The way we would know where we stood is if He told us to move something that’s a favorite away. It could well expose some idols that need toppling.

What to Do When You Get Preacher’s Block?

You’ve heard of writer’s block, right?  The blank page just stares back at him–and nothing.  The ideas have dried up.  Inspiration and motivation have taken a vacation.

Do preachers ever get preacher’s block?  Sadly, they do.  They look at the Scriptures from which they are to preach, and nothing comes.  Few things are more frightening or discouraging.  Even expositors, who know from which book and passage they shall preach, have those holy and inspired words look back at them and sense little movement, little excitement, little… anything!  What should a preacher do?  I’ll list off a few things.

First, take a spiritual inventory of your personal relationship with Christ.  Are you still communing with him in prayer and study of Scripture even if it’s not directly tied to your sermon?  Are you only in the Scriptures because you are compensated for doing so?  Jesus is not simply your job–He’s your Lord and Savior.  It’s good to take a spiritual inventory to (1) see if you are in Christ, and (2) evaluate your relationship and your engaging in the spiritual disciplines.

Two, once you’ve prayed, get away from distractions.  For the preacher and pastor, this may mean getting away from the office or getting out of the house.  “The office?  That’s where all my books and commentaries are.”  And… your point?  Go to a coffee shop, find a quiet spot, and clear your mind.  I go up to a local eatery called Corner Bakery here in town.  Other times, I find a small hidden room in the church.  Once a year, I check into a hotel for a couple days, leave the TV off, and just decompress.  I’m thankful for our Colorado Baptists that have a camp in Monument called Ponderosa.  Pastors can take a night or two free of charge to get away, either by themselves or with their family.  You may have some places like this near where you live.  Ask around.  You’d be surprised.  And your congregation would be grateful.

Thirdly, read meaty works on the subject or the passage from which you preach.  Tread lightly here.  You could find yourself standing behind the pulpit, preaching Edwards or Spurgeon or Keller or  Piper or Warren.  Some do go so far as to preach other people’s sermons, salving their conscience a bit by giving full attribution.  Fellow pastors, they called you as their pastor to feed the sheep.  We already have an Edwards, Spurgeon, Keller, Piper, or Warren.  Go and drink from the fountain of the Spirit, but recognize that the Spirit has given us theological and pastoral giants on whose shoulders we may stand.  They may shake out the scales from your homiletical eyes.

Fourthly, ask yourself if you’re trying to be too creative or clever.  Are you taking the Word and its power for granted?  Are you saying to yourself, “Yes, I know the Word is there, but if  I just had that zinger, that one-liner, that illustration, then this sermon would have power!”  While illustrations and the like are, as Spurgeon said, like windows that shed light on the Scripture, the true power lies in the Word, which will accomplish all that God seeks it to accomplish” (Isaiah 55:11-12).  Maybe you need to back off your cleverness and get back to the pure preaching of the Word.

Lastly, talk to another pastor about this.  He may be on staff with you, he may be a fellow pastor in the area, he may be a mentor from days gone by.  God has given us friends who have journeyed this path as well.  You’re not alone.  Pray together with them.  Share with them.  Ask their advice about a passage.  Or talk about something completely  unrelated.  You can overthink yourself into a corner.

What are some things you’ve done to break the preacher’s block?

Why You Shouldn’t Preach This Sunday

In many churches, the preaching pastor stands as the primary leader of the church as well.  While some are moving away from that model (which I hope to address soon), this stands as the primary model in many churches.  But even if you’re not the main preaching pastor, you may still have a responsibility to bring the Word regularly in your local church.

And maybe you shouldn’t.  Maybe you shouldn’t be preaching to your people or to any other people.  You may exegete the Word correctly, have the proper application, phenomenal delivery, and are loved by your people. Still–you may need to sit.  Here’s why:

  1. You don’t believe the Bible is fully inspired (breathed out) by God.  Paul urged Paul to preach the Word because this Word was the only reliable word of and from God (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5).  The Word is enough to make the man of God mature and complete, lacking nothing.  If you stand before God’s people questioning the plenary verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, you should not preach.
  2. You’re preaching because it’s a job, not a calling.  Paul wrote:  “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom that we present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:28-29).  God provides the energy for the struggle due to His calling and galvanizing of our hearts.  If you’re preaching outside of the call, but only due to this being a job, you should not preach! 
  3. You don’t love the people to whom you preach.  Read Acts 20:17-38 and tell me honestly that Paul did not love the Ephesians church and the elders with whom he served.  If you fail to love your people do to a haughtiness and arrogance due to whatever reason, then you should not preach.
  4. You refuse to adapt to the context in which God has you.  God places us where He places us.  He is sovereign Lord of all, and therefore He knows where He has His people to serve.  I remember times when I allowed my personal preferences to be elevated to tests of faith when it came to programs, music, the works. God had to work some hard things in my life for me to realize that He knew where He wanted me, and that brought joy.  If there’s a refusal over a long period of time to adapt to the context in which God has you, then you shouldn’t preach.
  5. You’re looking to the next venture rather than the venture God has you now.  Do you see the place where you serve as the proverbial stepping stone?  Are you using the church in which you lead to simply gain experience for the next sweet spot of service?  If you are using your people for your own personal gain and not their pastoral well-being, you should not preach.
  6. If you harbor unforgiveness to a member without going and setting things straight.  Matthew 5:21-26 is clear about unforgiveness and anger toward a brother.  We should even leave our time of worship to set it straight. Even when people say or do things that slander you with false or misguided information and intentions, God still calls you to forgive.  If you refuse to do this, don’t preach on Sunday.
  7. Your marriage/children need you–and you need to step away for a season.  Your family comes first outside of God.  If your marriage is falling apart and your children are on the verge of stepping off a cliff, then you should step away to care for them as the only husband to your wife and the only father to your children.  Hopefully, your church will understand, but even if they don’t, step away.  Don’t preach.  Be there as Christ for your family.

How Preaching Hard Texts Endears You to Your People

Whereas conventional wisdom in most evangelical circles dictates that pastors would do well to avoid the hard texts, my contention is that pastors should never shy away from this.  While the Joel Osteens and the Robert Schullers of the world will shy away from such dealings , I believe that many in our pews are just wanting a pastor who will deal directly with what the Bible says and address the issue at hand.

A case in point: in my previous church, I preached on two rather “hard texts” two Sundays in a row: one dealing with the role of women in the church, the other on the necessity of giving.  After each of those sermons, one of my deacons came out and said, “Man, I thought you’d be black and blue right now — you really laid it out there.”  But the reaction couldn’t have been different.  By the grace and glory of God, I received thank you’s for being willing to tackle such issues and helping to make things clear.  That will happen more often than not!  What joy that brings to a preacher and leader!

Why should we preach the hard texts as well as the other types to our people?

  1. Those texts are in the Scriptures! Obvious, yes.  But I have had well-meaning ministers tell me that just because it is in the Bible does not necessarily mean it will be appropriate to preach on.  This is why I make the case for expositional preaching: if forces you to deal with a text that your flesh may tempt you to avoid.
  2. For all the talk about our people despising authority, I believe they are looking for solid ground on which to stand.  We all are.  All this noise about postmodernism winning the day is far too premature.  It may be prevalent, but it hasn’t won anything.  If anything, our culture feels more in the dark than ever because many people’s spiritual journey is leading them down some deadends.  Preachers must never forget the supernatural transformational power of the Scriptures that are breathed out by the Spirit of God himself!   Never give up preaching!  The world may deem it folly, but to those who are being saved it  is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
  3. People, especially Christians, long to be dealt with honestly. Many in my generation are becoming angry at the church for their failure to teach them the things of the faith.  They praise God for churches sharing the gospel with them and showing them Jesus, but afterwards they become afraid of being too doctrinal (read: divisive) and therefore they do not “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
  4. People feel patronized when pastors fail to deal with a text or issue.  When pastors avoid these texts, they are in so many words telling their people, “You really can’t handle this right now.”  Yet, pastors who stay with their churches and invest their time in their people can take them along slowly and help them step-by-step.  Young pastors especially need to remember that you don’t need to tell them everything you know (or think you know) in one sermon.  Pour yourself out into your people and teach them with patience (1 Timothy 4:13-16).

What do you think?