Preaching Part 2

SO the second thing about preaching that I think about is this.

What was the author trying to tell the people who would read the letter?

Now in most cases we call this the author’s intent.

However, for years now I have called this the pastoral burden. What do I mean?

That passage was written for a particular group of people for a particular reason. Whether it is the Old Testament or the New Testament, each passage had a reason for its existence.

And it is that word right there: reason. That makes all the difference in the world.

You see you can take a passage, look at the Greek or Hebrew, parse the sentence, draw your arcs, create your flow diagrams, and even chase out your typology. But without the reason for that text’s existence, the data you gather from these various tools, instruments and rules, leaves you without a cohesive whole.

I have called that cohesive whole: the pastoral burden. After proper exegesis, built on proper hermeneutics, bringing this passage into today can only be done, when we discover what the pastoral burden is of the passage.

I ask questions like:

  • What spiritual good was expected in God’s people, who read this passage?
  • Upon hearing this passage and the doctrine of this passage, what part of the life of God’s people was this aimed at? Was it aimed at them as a whole or individuals? Was it aimed at their thinking or their behavior?
  • In what way does Paul use this doctrine right here?

An example might help. Romans 8:28-30 is a passage that so many people love. This passage speaks at least in part about the doctrine of predestination. But the passage is not simply giving a good theology lesson. That doctrine is being used for a specific reason namely way Christians should view and handle suffering.

Another way to say what I am saying is this: the doctrine does not end on itself, but serves the greater purpose of drawing our heart to worship through living life pleasing to God.

This was Paul’s pastoral burden, and when we preach I think a sermon should share the same pastoral burden as the writer we are interpreting. If we don’t, then I think we miss the chance to help God’s people see how practical doctrine really is, and we miss the change to show them how to read God’s word rightly.

So what is the pastoral burden of the passage?

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The Bible and those who ought to know it.

A pastor who is using someone else’s book or sermon to preach his own sermons, he is like a restaurant buying meals from another restaurant.

What would you do, if you the restaurant you wanted to go to bought their meals from another restaurant down the road?

Or what would you do if the doctor you were seeing, took all your files to another doctor to find out what was wrong with you?

I would simply go to the other restaurant and the other doctor.

So what about a pastor who is not getting his sermons from the Scriptures themselves? What about a pastor who is preaching from someone else’s books, sermons, or studies?

Now I understand using someone’s book because you want to do a book study. No pastor can be the expert in every field.

But that is not what I am talking about. I believe that preaching of the Word is the central hub of church life. It is God speaking by his Spirit through his word about his Son.

So a pastor who is not seeking to understand what God has spoken in his word, cannot tell first hand what God says to his people today. I think this is a shame for two reasons:

He doesn’t know God

If he is not studying the Scriptures, then he doesn’t know God. If he is studying the Scriptures, then why is he preaching someone else’s sermons as though they are his own?

Jesus said that this is eternal life, “That they might know you, the only true God.”(John 17:3)

Christ Jesus wants us to know him, to know his Father. And a pastor is first and foremost a man of the study. He ought to be studying to know who God is. Yes he should be a reader, but his first reading should be of the Scriptures.

And if he is going to preach someone else’s book, then does he even know God at all?

He doesn’t know what God is really saying.

God speaks through his word. His word is alive and active and sharper than any two edged sword. God speaks in his word, and a pastor who does not read or study the scriptures themselves is not hearing God himself. He does not know what God is saying.

If he is reading someone else’s book, surely he will understand what that author thinks God says. But he will not know for himself what God says.

He cannot shepherd God’s people.

A pastor who is using someone else’s book or sermon to preach his own sermons, he is like a restaurant buying meals from another restaurant.

So this pastor is not shepherding the people before him, instead he is importing shepherds for God’s people who might not even believe like the pastor himself.

If you hear a pastor preaching a sermon from someone else, challenge him to give an account of his own study on the topic or passage. Seek pastors who are studying the Word for themselves. Don’t just sit there and take it. Hold these men accountable.