Preaching to the Spiritually Empty Who Need to Be Filled
Pastors are called to feed, lead, and intercede for the church. When we have the privilege to stand before the people of God and share biblical truth with them, we must do so with the greatest skill entrusted to us by the Lord. This requires from each preacher due diligence in his study, spiritual preparation in his life, and total commitment from him through his delivery. When the Bible has been proclaimed faithfully and the people of God have been fed spiritually, there is a healthy spiritual satisfaction that rests upon the preacher.
The challenge of preaching is to communicate to the varied levels of maturity from those who hear us proclaim the Word. If all were on the same level, the preacher’s challenges would not be as great as they are. In the public worship services in our churches, it is our desire to have the services filled with those who are mature, those who are not as mature as they should be, and those that are absolutely there in search of God. Though it is a challenge to speak to these various levels of where people are with God, we know that every person can always benefit from hearing the Bible taught and applied to their life. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we speak to those who need to be filled.
1. You must be filled with the Holy Spirit.
You must have your own thriving, personal relationship with Christ daily. If you are not reading God’s Word, seeking His truth for your life, and praying daily, how can you expect to stand up on Sunday and proclaim God’s Word to His people? The most important thing a pastor can do is prioritize his own daily relationship with Christ.
In my personal time with the Lord each day, there are two verses I pray about my preaching that is before me. On Sunday morning, I pray these verses at least twice. Once in my private time with God at home, but then again on Sunday morning on my knees on my prayer altar in my office. These verses represent my heart on my own great need and what I believe is also the need of the hearers. I pray 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 daily, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.” (CSB)
2. Prepare to speak the message God gives you.
Separate from a pastor’s personal daily time with God is his sermon preparation. This is essential to teaching and preaching God’s Word. How much time do you spend in sermon preparation? God’s Word and His truths deserve to be delivered in the best way possible. We must never be lazy about preparation when it comes to proclaiming God’s Word to His people. I tell preachers everywhere: Imagine you have a huge ball and chain attached to each of your ankles that do not come off until you have a word from God. Then you are ready to stand and preach.
3. Proclaim God’s Truth.
There are some who would try to soften God’s Word to make it more easily accepted. I would implore you never to do this. The Bible says that God’s Word is sharper than any two-edged sword.1 His truths do not change, and are not always easy to deliver or even fun to hear. True life change in God’s people will not happen without His truth. If you are not proclaiming God’s Truth from the pulpit on Sunday, where will they hear it? Certainly not from TV news, social media, or our culture. You are the only source of truth some people will hear all week. Make it count.
4. Remember God’s Love.
While never compromising God’s Truth, be sure to remember His love. Love is deeply misunderstood in our culture today. We can share truths that may be unpopular, but still show love. We can rebuke sin while still showing the love of Christ. God is love, and we must always represent our loving God.2 Remind your congregation that God loves them, and show it to them in the Scriptures. Show your own love for them through your speech and actions, not only from the pulpit, but in personal ways as you are able throughout the week. This is why I have said for years that we must always hold God’s Truth in one hand and God’s love in the other hand.
5. Remember different maturity levels.
When you speak to your congregation, be sure to remember that there are people in the room from multiple generations and many levels of spiritual maturity. Find the right balance between talking down to people with too many “church words” and making things too simplistic. It can be a challenge, but I know you can do it. Make illustrations relational and engaging, and perhaps even share a funny story about yourself from time to time. The better the relationship your congregation has with you as a listener, the better they receive the message of the Lord through you. Spurgeon believed that illustrations are like windows into the text. Therefore, we need to use them wisely and only when they help us see the text more clearly.
Therefore, faithful preacher, your assignment is beyond yourself! Call out to God in prayer and in preparation. Know that He has put His Word into your heart. Deliver this Word with the deepest of conviction in the powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit, and always in the love of the Father that He has for all of us.
Then, trust the Lord and His Word completely.
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