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In the first two articles we looked at the clear Biblical mandate for pastors to invest hard work. I hope we have all been encouraged to persist in this hard work for the sake of being obedient to the call God has placed on our lives. In this concluding article, I would like to help us think about the hindrances which come our way, and also offer a few practical ways of coping with the challenges.
Hindrances for Pastors From Being Diligent In Sermon Preparation
Our battle with indwelling sin is the main hindrance (Rom. 7:14-25, Gal. 5:17). A pastor is a gift to the church. He has been separated and equipped to feed and care for the flock of God. However, he has not been safeguarded with the everyday battle of indwelling sin. He has matured spiritually and hence is in a great position to model godliness to the church, but he nevertheless still battles indwelling sin. That remaining sin in us does not want us to love and yield to the things of God; even the study of the word of God in faithful sermon preparation. When we sow to the flesh, we find ourselves not delighting in the glories of Christ. Even sermon preparation can become a burden and task rather than a delight. This is the main hindrance in working hard in sermon preparation.
There are other hindrances, too. One is a wrong understanding that a pastor’s primary task is to manage projects, build bigger buildings and schools rather than feeding the sheep. Sometimes disorderliness can creep into a pastor’s life because he thinks that he has all week to begin sermon preparation and then life becomes so busy that there is hardly any time left for sermon preparation. Another hindrance can be lack of delegation. In our Indian context, most pastors have planted churches and have been used to doing everything in a church. As time goes by, they find it difficult to delegate practical administrative and organizing aspects to others. Often, all of the counselling needs are shouldered by the same man. As the congregation grows, it becomes overwhelming for a pastor to keep up with so many things that it could lead to a lack of time for sermon preparation.
Help For Pastors To Be More Diligent In Sermon Preparation
It is helpful to always be reminded from God’s word about His saving grace and His call into the ministry. As evidenced in 2 Timothy 1:8-12, Paul never forgot that he has been saved by amazing grace. He received salvation and a call to serve the King of Kings even though he was so unworthy. Paul thought about Jesus as the indescribable gift given to hell-bound sinners who receive unimaginable spiritual blessings in Christ. Paul was so full of gratitude that he asked Timothy to join him in suffering for the Gospel. Such a grateful mindset helps us to stay focused and work hard in sermon preparation which is a very important part of our ministry.
Many times, the pastor gets discouraged by the routine ministry of preaching. It is a joke among many ministers that every Sunday morning they are so excited about ministry and by Monday morning they want to quit. One of the reasons could be that we expect people’s lives to change by Sunday evening. Like Jack and the beanstalk, we expect the seed we have sown to turn into a giant plant the very next day. Yes, God has wonderfully blessed sermons in church history, but Christian growth in the Bible is compared to the slow steady rooting, grounding and growing of a plant (Col. 2:7).
So, one way to stay focused on sermon preparation is to look at the big picture. After a few years of receiving a steady diet of the Word, young believers will be able to impact others in their offices, in their families. Our efforts in sermon preparation will continue to have far-reaching effects. Just think about it, when we accurately handle the word the members of our congregation are learning how to handle it as well. Discernment is being built into them. They are going to learn to handle the gospel through us and sow it into the lives of people we could never reach. We should be encouraged to keep working hard because of what God can do and what He is already doing apart from our knowledge.
There are a few other practical ways in which pastors can stay encouraged in the discipline of sermon preparation. Every now and then it is helpful to read the biographies of pastors and preachers like Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Macarthur. We will realize that they too went through discouraging times and challenges, but God continued to strengthen and use them.
Another important thing is to develop life-long friendships with like-minded pastors in your city or state and continue to be challenged by their fellowship. But I think the thing that is often overlooked and underestimated is asking for the members of your church and friends all over the world to pray for you. The Apostle Paul too realized how God can work amazingly through prayer. We too will do well to share with our people that we need their prayers to constantly stay focused and work hard for the glory of God.
As we remember God’s gracious call on our lives, focus on the big picture, find encouragement from saints who have gone before us, and pursue meaningful accountability, I pray that God would help us all to feed the flock for which we will have to give an account to our Great Shepherd.