By Joseph Henderson, Associate Pastor/Missionary • BMA of Miss.
Clif Johnson, BMAA President: We often find difficulty in making the rubber meet the road when it comes to fleshing out the theme of the national meeting. This series of articles is meant to be helpful to you in thinking of ways to make the theme of “Preaching the Word” come alive in your ministry. May the Lord richly bless you as you give His Word its rightful place.
Executive Editor’s Note: See the other two articles in this series in the May 4, May 11 and May 18 issues.
“Preach the Word” — this was the theme of the BMA of America annual meeting in Springfield last month. The messages preached not only expressed this command but also exemplified it. Even when we left Missouri to head back to South Mississippi, I could still hear it echo in my mind.
When taken seriously, there is an appropriate heaviness that accompanies this God-given task. Sometimes I sense this heaviness and confuse it for a burden. I can be impressed by the weight of such an awesome responsibility — the responsibility of speaking God’s Word to God’s people — and I can feel as if it is too much to bear.
It is possible that this sense of inadequacy is more prevalent in associate pastors than in the men who preach every Sunday, or at least we experience it in different ways. Stepping up to the pulpit as an associate pastor can feel like being the pinch hitter coming off the bench late in the baseball game. There is a desire to “knock it out of the park,” knowing that we don’t get as many opportunities.
But we were reminded at the annual meeting that we’ve not been commanded to preach extraordinary, elaborate or impressive sermons. We’ve certainly not been commanded to preach our own whims or pet subjects. We’ve been commanded to “Preach the Word” — nothing more and nothing less.
It is true that preaching the Word is difficult work, but, in many ways, it takes the weight off of our shoulders! It is both a divine restraint binding us to the text, and a divine relief, liberating us from unrealistic or un-scriptural expectations. It was this two-sided coin that I walked away with from the annual meeting. We are bound to simply “Preach the Word” and we are free to simply “Preach the Word.” Though it will look different in various contexts, let me mention three ways that we can endeavor to more faithfully “Preach the Word” as associate pastors:
• We can find additional preaching opportunities. Lead pastors might should preach less frequently than they do, while associate pastors likely should preach more frequently than they do. Hopefully, that will include several Sunday sermons at our own churches, as I am blessed to enjoy, but it might also mean filling pulpits in our communities that are currently without a pastor or asking other pastors to allow us to give them a Sunday off. In order to more faithfully “Preach the Word,” associate pastors should begin by preparing and delivering more sermons.
• We should consider our sermon texts with care. Associate Pastors ought to preach sermons that deal thoughtfully with God’s Word and that complement the weekly preaching ministry of the church. In my own context, that means that we preach expositional messages, where the main idea of the text is the main idea of the sermon, and it means that we do not deviate from the current sermon series whenever someone other than our lead pastor is preaching. After all, we are preaching the same Word, no matter the position we might hold.
• We need to request and receive feedback. This probably isn’t the sincere, but typically shallow, comments from congregants at the back of the auditorium. Nor should a man rely on his wife and kids to provide this type of feedback, at least week-in and week-out. Maybe it means having a sermon (or service) review at your church where other pastors both cheer you on and offer ways for you to grow in this important task. Through those types of reviews, I have sharpened my own preaching skills, a sharpening that is almost invaluable. Of course, this means being open to critique; even more pointedly, it means receiving that critique well. But this feedback is a vital component of a strong and strengthening Word-preaching ministry.
Associate pastors have been called by the same God to preach the same Word for the same glorious purpose. We are neither above this command nor below it. May God grant us grace as we strive to more faithfully “Preach the Word” to the glory of God alone.