I had an informal discussion the other day with a seasoned ministry colleague. In his current role, he works with a lot of young pastors and seminary students, most of whom express that the focus of their energy is on becoming an outstanding preacher.
This discussion caused me to reflect back on my earliest ambitions. I admired the pastor of the church I attended during my college years. His passion for applying scriptural
truths and his enthusiasm in preaching made me look forward to Sundays with great anticipation. I was seldom disappointed. As one who felt a definite call to ministry, he served as a model for preaching while I finished my bachelor’s degree and prepared to enroll in seminary studies.
My first semester at the seminary was everything I thought it would be. I dug into my theological studies with gusto. I welcomed the challenges of Greek Syntax, New Testament Survey and Systematic Theology. These were a welcomed change from the social sciences I studied at a state university. When I completed my first semester, and traveled back home for the Christmas break, I stopped in to see the pastor I admired so.
I was welcomed into his study, where he now honored me as a ministry colleague, instead of a mere college student. He asked about my first semester, and reminisced some about his own experiences years before. During our conversation, he made a statement that still comes to mind whenever I set my heart to sermon preparation. He said, “As important as theological studies are, I’ve come to realize that most of the people who show up for church every Sunday could really care less about who wrote the Book of Hebrews or the meaning of certain Greek words. They simply need something from their pastor that is going to help them get through the challenges of the next week.”
That day I realized it was not his command of homiletics or hermeneutics, but his love for his people, and attention to their struggles, that made his preaching so effective. His words have served me well through the years. I encourage you to take them to heart as well.