Pastor, why do you preach?
I know the obvious answers … to proclaim the gospel, to glorify God, to evangelize the lost, to edify the church. Those are the answers you’re supposed to give. And in your better moments, I pray they are true to some degree. But I’m not looking for the Sunday school answer. I want to know the truth. When you step off the platform, what is the greatest compliment you could hear from your people? Odds are, the thing you want to hear most will reveal why you really stand up and preach every week.
- I think some pastors want to step off the platform and hear someone say, “You’re SO smart!” I think this because some pastors turn their sermon into a mini lesson on original languages, leaving folks wondering how they could ever interpret the Bible without knowing Greek or Hebrew. I think this because so many pastors give their folks the truth without showing them how they found that truth in the text, leaving their folks unable to study God’s Word on their own.
- I think some pastors want to step off the platform and hear someone say, “You’re SO funny!” I think this because some pastors stand up and tell story after story, using the Scriptures to prove the point of their story. I think this because some pastors stand up and tell joke after joke, making the sermon feel more like a second class stand up monologue (second class because, let’s face it, professional comedians are way funnier than any pastor).
- I think some pastors want to step off the platform and hear someone say, “You’re SO cool!” I think this because some pastors clearly spend more time picking out the right wardrobe, hair style, and glasses, leaving little time for sermon prep. I think this because some pastors clearly spend hours thinking about staging, lighting, set design, and life sized props, leaving few hours for digging into the text they plan on preaching.
- I think some pastors want to step off the platform and hear someone say, “You’re SO holy!” I think this because some pastors fill their sermons with stories of how they won souls to Christ or did great things for Jesus, leaving the rest of their people feel like peons. I think this because some pastors posture themselves as having arrived spiritually, forcing the rest of us to wonder why we can’t seem to be as spiritual as the man standing on the platform.
I’ll be honest. At points, I’ve been guilty of all of these mistakes. I’ve found myself wanting people to think I’m smart and funny and cool and holy. Especially when I start comparing myself to other speakers, evangelists, and pastors. It’s easy for these things to become the real focus of what a preacher does on Sunday morning.
However, in my better moments, these are not the things I want to hear when I step off the platform. The longer I preach, the more I appreciate one comment more than any other. When I step down from preaching, the one thing I really want to hear from my people is, “I understand.” I want them to understand the Bible. I want them to see how to study and interpret the Bible. I want the Bible to be clear, not confusing. Maybe that means I need to explain a Greek word. Maybe that means I need to tell a joke. Maybe that means I need an appropriate prop. Maybe that means I need to tell a personal story.
Or maybe that means I need to stop worrying about all of those things. Maybe I need to spend more time studying so the text is crystal clear in my mind (if it’s not clear in my mind, it certainly won’t be clear in my preaching). Maybe I need to spend more time in sermon prep, thinking through what I want to say and how I want to say it, so that my message can be as simple and clear as possible. Maybe that means I need to spend more time praying that the Spirit who inspired God’s Word would see fit to use my teaching to bring clarity to the church.
Originally published November 9, 2015 on landoncoleman.com.