I’ve been thinking a lot lately about preaching.
With the hope of being in a full-time pastorate soon the thought had occurred to me, what should the content of a pastor’s preaching be during the first 6 months he is there? I mulled over this question for sometime. My thought was, you cannot possibly know exactly what a church will need to hear from the Word of God until you have spent some time with them.
In some ways, the first 6 months is like a honeymoon period. No pastor walking into a church should think they can change anything during the first 6 months. One must even be careful about considering changing anything after the first 6 months. We need to earn the church’s trust before we can consider changing everything they are doing. Granted, things may need to be changed to be more reflective of the Scriptural requirements for a local church, but we must be careful how that occurs.
But back to preaching.
What should a new pastor consider preaching at his new church? Too many pastors do not think this through. They just jump in preaching through Ephesians or something without taking some time to consider the needs of the congregation. Obviously no one can truly know their flock after only 6 months, but 6 months will give you a handle on some of the issues facing the church, certain needs that need to be addressed, so you can effectively come in and begin to teach through the whole counsel of God in a redemptive fashion. While all Scripture is profitable, not all Scripture is applicable at certain times in the life of the church. So, with these questions in mind, I sent an e-mail to those I knew in the ministry and asked their thoughts.
I got a few answers that I considered typical. Preach through Ephesians. Preach through 1 Corinthians. Another one I got was one I did not expect: Preach through a Gospel. This they argued would show that the emphasis on your ministry was Christ. Good thought. These were the typical kind of answers I received. Those who suggested preaching through a book did not seem to think one should preach a “topical” series at the beginning because expository preaching is the mandate of the pastor. Now, I agree that we should preach in an expository fashion, but to think we cannot preach expositionally through a topical series is misunderstanding the full nature of expository preaching.
Two kinds of answers though stuck out in my mind. One came from a wise pastor I know here in Ontario. He said, Pray! That seems so basic but often left out of the equation of what the content of a pastor’s preaching should be. Pray about what you should preach. The Lord will impress on your heart and mind a book or a topic that needs to be preached. God knows better than anyone what should be preached! This is an excellent foundation. While I think many expository preachers lack basic planning and thinking through why they preach what they preach, no matter what we choose or what we plan to preach on, the starting point should be seeking direction from the Lord in prayer.
The next answer I received from my own pastor and from my wife’s former pastor. They dovetailed nicely and I thought this was the ideal approach to take about what the initial content of preaching should be for the first 6 month tenure of a pastor. My pastor wrote me and said,
…don’t be reluctant to preach the Gospel often in the early months of your ministry in a new church. Faithful believers will rejoice in the Gospel being preached and those who are not saved need to hear it! Exalting Christ through the Gospel will establish the tone of your ministry from there forward.
These are wise words. My wife’s pastor wrote me and suggested the following:
Unless there is a specific need to address another topic or Biblical passage, I would strongly suggest a topical series (that may be handled expositionally) staking out Christian and church priorities. Highlight things like a high concept of God, the authority of Scripture, Christ-centered faith, our dependence upon grace for salvation and all things, the heavy Biblical concern for devotion and personal godliness (and what that looks like, etc), evangelism, what Biblical church and ministry look like – these kinds of things. Stake out the priorities, “this is what we are all about,” etc.
So, my suggestion is, during the first 6 months, the pastor approach the content of the Gospel as his message. This could be presented in a topical series about the foundation we have in the death and resurrection of Christ, biblical priorities, the nature of salvation the expectation of Church members, etc. The gospel should obviously saturate all our preaching, but during the first 6 months, as “Gospel” preachers, we should clearly make the Gospel the content of our preaching. As my wife’s former pastor said, “Stake out the priorities.” And as my pastor said, “Exalting Christ through the Gospel will establish the tone of your ministry from there forward.” These are both wise suggestions in my opinion.
So during the first 6 months, preach on the Gospel. That is really what the ministry is all about is it not? The Gospel of Jesus Christ? Then when you have had the opportunity to observe the congregation you can map out where you want to go from there in your preaching. That might mean going to the Gospel of Mark, the book of Ephesians, or the book of Genesis. It will depend on your congregation and the leading of the Spirit. But my call is to all you expositional preachers out there; do not pick your preaching randomly. Ask the following questions:
1) What are the needs of my congregation?
2) What is the Spirit communicating to me I should preach?
3) How will this book of the Bible fit in with the larger context of the progress of redemption?
4) How will this book of the Bible fit in with what I have previously preached and what I will preach after?
Unless you are John MacArthur and can preach through the entire New Testament in one church, you will need to think hard about what you will preach to your people. And please, pastors, stop neglecting the Old Testament! We do our people a disservice by neglecting 2/3 of our Bible! They need Leviticus just as much as they need Romans!
So, preach the Gospel, and think and pray carefully about the content of your preaching.