“It really doesn’t matter how many sheep we gather if we don’t intend to feed them” (Stan Toler, “Leading from the Pulpit,” Preaching [Sept/Oct 2009], 17).
This past Sunday I was able to be with my flock again at Tunkhannock Baptist Church in Tunkhannock, PA. It is painful to “pop in” and “pop out” like this as we wait for my work visa so we can set roots down full-time and begin serving Christ’s flock that He has entrusted to us. But, I love to have the opportunity to begin to develop relationships with my sheep and to seek to feed them from the Word of God. One of the blessings I have is beginning to lead them in a study of What is a Healthy Church? in our Sunday PM series. This week we talked about Expository Preaching being a defining mark of a healthy church.
I tried to articulate that expository preaching (preaching that takes as its main point the main point of the Scripture that is being preached upon) is defended in the Bible itself, and tried to articulate both the benefits of it for the pastor and for the church. One of the things I noted was that a good thing sometimes takes a lot of effort. It is in expository preaching that we really flex our pastoral muscles.
Often it seems that many in our churches expect that we can feed them from the Word of God without actually preparing for it. This is both a crime for the preacher and for the congregation.
I have a friend, Heinz Dschankilic, who is a wonderful servant of Christ and Executive Director of Sola Scriptura Ministries International, who offers an excellent analogy about sermon preparation. He explains that there is quite the difference between a microwave dinner and Thanksgiving dinner. The microwave dinner is quick but rarely tasty and frankly, far from filling. Thanksgiving dinner though is delicious and highly filling, but it takes substantial time. For a shepherd to effectively feed his flock, he needs to take time to prepare the feast for the flock. Isn’t a feast better than a Hungryman TV dinner?
In the recent issue of Preaching magazine Stan Toler has an excellent article called “Leading from the Pulpit.” He offers the story of Pastor W. A. Criswell of First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX and the importance of study in preparation of Sunday. He writes that Criswell,
… used to stay away from the “office” during the weekday morning hours. He was home in his study–pouring over the Scriptures, seeking the Spirit’s leadership in putting the menu together for a sheep-feeding the following Sunday. Criswell said in his autobiography, Standing on the Promises, “If you want to succeed in ministry… keep your heart fixed on Jesus and your mind centered on God’s Word.” His afternoons were given to the church business, but his mornings we devoted to Bible study.”
It is important as shepherds to feed our flocks. If we want our flocks to be healthy and to live according to the glory of God, we need to feed them what they need, a steady diet of the Word of God. And before we can feed them, we need to prepare the feast. This takes time and effort on behalf of the preacher, but the rewards for both the pastor and the flock are extraordinary.
So, for my flock at TBC, know that I want the best for you and I intend to prepare feasts for you each week from the Word of God. This means that it will take me time each week to prepare the meal for Sunday. It means I need dedicated time to study the Scriptures, to apply them to my own life, so I can proclaim them to you. But in the end, this dedicated time of study will pay off as you are able to experience a steady diet of the Word of God. I intend to feed you and feed you well. So, I must prepare the meal well!
Pastors, love your flock so much that you spend time deep in study in the Word of God to prepare the feast of the Word of God for them each Sunday. Flex those pastoral muscles! Remember, it really doesnt’ matter how many sheep we gather if we don’t intend to feed them. And I would add, feed them well.