3. The Preparation Necessary For This Edifying Ministry.
He who has been gifted and called to minister the Word of God must also realize he is also called upon to study, to develop his gift, and this, Solomon tells us, is “a weariness of the flesh” (Ecc. 12-12). The person who defined study as “the application of the seat of the trousers to the seat of the chair until the subject has been mastered,” wasn’t far wrong, for the maintenance of this point of contact is anything but easy! He who teaches English is enabled to do so because he has studied the subject.
There is therefore the constant need for the daily devotional reading, meditation and study of the Word of God. He must know much of supplication in prayer, together with praise and worship, and accompanied by true humility of spirit, and genuine heart devotion to the Lord Jesus, as seen in a yielded life, together with the confession and forsaking of all known sin. This is the ideal that is set before us in the Scriptures, and each Christian needs to keep it constantly before him, lest he suffer from what has been aptly termed, “The barrenness of a busy life.”
4. The Conscientious Preparation Of The Message.
This also calls for much prayer for guidance as to what portion of the Scriptures the Lord would have us to select for exposition, and also for the needed spiritual wisdom to understand it clearly, interpret it correctly and expound it helpfully and powerfully, so that the hearers will be profitably edified through it. Once this has been determined, the passage selected should be read again and again, until its meaning is clear, for if it is not clear to the reader, it certainly cannot be made clear to the hearer, for one can only teach what he knows. Our Lord could say: “We speak that we do know” (John 3-11).
After the words of the passage of Scripture to be expounded have been carefully considered, the central theme, or the main subject should be discovered, and then stated in one’s own words. Then all the contributing thoughts in the passage, which give further light on the theme, or which naturally spring from the theme, should be carefully noted and written down. All these contributing thoughts should now be arranged in their logical sequence so that they will combine to effectually present the central theme of the passage. This is what is called, “expository preaching.” It has been well likened to a wheel. The theme is the hub, and the contributing thoughts the spokes of the wheel. By this method, all the truth in this particular passage of Scripture can be exposed, explained and applied. This is undoubtedly the best and most effective method of preaching.
An old preacher has aptly said: “Really trying to preach involves persistent, careful and prayerful preparation of the sermon in all its details, its doctrines, its homiletical order, its vigorous English, its grammatical correctness, the proper pronounciation of its words, its winsome delivery in modulated vocalization, clear enunciation and correct gesticulation” (Jeff D. Day). If all this suggests the idea of hard work, the reader has come to a perfectly correct understanding of what this proper preparation involves. For those who object to the word, “sermon,” and prefer the word, “address,” it is good to know they both mean the same thing! A sermon by any other name is just as good — or bad! Writing will also prove to be a most helpful aid in clarifying one’s thoughts, and become a great help in the use of correct and forceful English.
A preacher of three thousand years ago has put on record what this exposition of the Word involves in the way of studious preparation and said: “Because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find acceptable words; and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads and as nails fastened by the Master of assemblies, which are given from one Shepherd” (Ecc. 12-9-11). This good advice, though hoary with age, is very much up to date, and should be “read, marked and inwardly digested” by all who seek to preach or teach effectively and profitably.
Should the reader desire to further his studies in this matter of the preparation of the Word of God, he may obtain additional help by consulting: “The Preacher and His Preaching,” 476 pp, Price $5.00. (Published by Walterick Publishing Co., Box 2216, Kansas City, Kansas 66110). In this book, the various types of sermons, together with hints on how to prepare and deliver them are given. Seeing that preaching and teaching is the God-ordained means of spreading the gospel and teaching the Scriptures; all who have been gifted by the Lord to this end should seize every opportunity to increase their knowledge of the best means of preparing and presenting the message God desires them to give.
5. The Presentation Of The Ministry
It is one thing to prepare a message from the Word of God, and another to actually deliver it to an audience. It is the same difference that exists between preparing a meal in the kitchen and serving it in the dining room, The ministry of the Word to be Profitable to the hearers should meet certain definite requirements laid down in the Word of God. Let us note four of these essentials of edifying ministry.
(1) It should be intelligent, or “with the understanding” (1 Cor. 14:19). It surely goes without saying that unless the speaker understands clearly what he is talking about, he will only succeed in “darkening counsel by words without knowledge” (Job 38:2). If he is not able to intelligently grasp the subject on which he speaks, how are those who listen to him to understand it? It will simply be a case of the “blind leading the blind.” It has been pointed out that the similarity between shallow and muddy water and very deep and clear water is that we cannot see the bottom, but there the similarity ends! Muddied thinking results in muddied ministry, and the result is a muddled audience who cannot understand what the speaker is trying to say. To be understood is therefore an essential requirement to edifying ministry.