LECTURE 4 ON SERMON PREPARATION Misgivings

Morris points out the temptations that face the preacher. I love the story of the homiletics professor who said to his departing students, “Wherever you go in the world, there are sure to be young women (and men also I might add) that take your hand and say that was a wonderful sermon. Gentlemen, the trouble is that some of you will believe it. So the first temptation is to take glory to oneself that really belongs to God. Gaining a personal following is not our aim. Jesus said in Luke 6:26, Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.

Then there is the sin of vanity. You cannot please everyone,but some people try. My dear wife has often designated specific servants of the Lord as “control freaks.” Despite her lack of theological training, she is most often correct. There is this temptation to be the big man on the campus. The last temptation is the failure to learn as if we were only a donor and not a receiver. We are called to give only that which we have received.

Morris also gives us encouragement when we are troubled by feelings of Inadequacy. It should be a motivation to work harder. One of the ways we do this is through congregational contact. I cannot tell you the number of men that I have seen in the ministry that do not visit their congregation, and thus the congregation does not really listen. I recall a time in our experience when we were involved in a financial campaign. The Elders decided they should visit every family. I visited regularly, but the elders did not. As it turned out, they discovered that people were resentful because they had not been visited previously, and now, when they were, the reason was money. Soon we instituted a regular program of elder visitation. Every pastor should read the classic by Richard Baxter, “The Reformed Pastor.” If we  understand that the Gospel has an inherent power of its own because it speaks to men’s needs then we will focus on the message and not on ourselves.

Similarly, Haselden lists the pitfalls of the ministry as seeking societal approval, sentimentality, interminable activity without adequate rest, and surrendering to the wrong authority as if one was an employee instead of a servant of the Lord. The pitfall of being overburdened, distracted by programs, and lack of time for dealing with pertinent issues is always present, and some men seek to escape from the ecclesiastical machine and the pressures by surrendering to worldly temptations. There is always this threat of vocational instability, and we need to distinguish between the minister’s person and personage. Richard Siebeck says, “It is the calling that creates the person.” If this happens to a pastor it is disastrous. I remember in an IVCF meeting when I was in college, the advisor asked everyone “Who are you?”  People gave a lot of answers, but obviously the only correct answer was “I am a child of God.” If we ever forget that, we are in trouble. Blackwood has a wonderful chapter on pastoral anxieties. Given the comparatively meager provisions that a Pastor is expected to survive on with his family, it is not surprising that finances would be a major concern. However many pastors express concerns about apathy among the church members and an undue demand for administration. Thus to escape from anxiety he prescribes a proper Biblical outlook: a reliance on providence, and a reliance on God’s faithfulness. In the 1960’s we had three children. When the first two were born we had no medical insurance. Costs were relatively low compared to today, so we payed for the doctors and hospital out of pocket. In September of 1965 we finally got medical insurance through our denomination. In October, one month later, our third child was born with a club foot. Everything was covered. We have experienced many such providential wonders in our lives and ministry. There are only two causes of tensions in the ministry. They will affect our preaching if we do not deal with them. The external causes are the pressures of the ministry and one must use available means to relieve these including talking to someone, taking one thing at a time, scheduling time off, physical activity, etc. The internal cause is sin it must be repented of and removed.