The pastoral ministry is, of course, broader in responsibility and scope than preaching. But there is no more important responsibility or privilege that a servant of God has than to preach! It is to be regretted when a pastor becomes so busy or otherwise occupied that he cannot put his best effort into sermon preparation.
In the preface to Preaching to Preachers Norman Madson wrote, “While there must ever be the seriousness of eternity about our preaching, let it be the seriousness which is ever concerned about bringing sin-burdened souls to see the glories awaiting them in the realm of full gospel liberty, where ‘the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land’” (Song of Solomon 2:11,12).
When a pastor brings the Word of God to the flock Sunday after Sunday, he is, we might say, “preaching to the choir”—to members of the congregation.
Where God’s all-exacting law is preached without reservation, there weeping (whether evident to the eye or not) will naturally result. And where the gospel is proclaimed in all its saving grace and accepted in child-like faith, repentant weeping will give way to mouths filled with laughter and tongues with singing. Yes, sermon work—and it is work—and the privilege to share the fruits of one’s labor in preaching the gospel is a joy!
Most preachers enter the pulpit for 45-50 years in the span of their ministry. Except for a vacation or illness, normally fifty-two sermons a year are preached. Add to that the special services—Advent, Lent, and other services such as Thanksgiving Day and Ascension; add to those the weddings and funerals. That is a lot of sermons (even if in the course of a long ministry some are recycled)!
Every opportunity to prepare a sermon and to bring the Word of God to the flock is a privilege for which one thanks the Lord. There is no greater expression that a person can give the pastor than a “thank you” for the message heard.
When a pastor brings the Word of God to the flock Sunday after Sunday, he is, we might say, “preaching to the choir”—to members of the congregation. He should never dismiss the importance of that, for the members are in need of the law by reason of their flesh, and of the gospel for the healing of penitent, broken, and troubled hearts. The “choir” needs the song of forgiveness and the balm of salvation! Furthermore, the pastor’s first responsibility is to the flock under his care (Acts 20:28). He is to feed the Church of God.
For this retired preacher the joy of preaching was never greater than when presented with the opportunity to bring the Word to a bridal couple at their wedding, or the necessity of preaching a funeral sermon. Why is that? Because at such occasions there are frequently more strangers than flock! Many to whom we speak may be unchurched, not knowing the first principles of the Christian faith. To such we have the opportunity to share the precious Word of God.
We bring the gospel for the comfort of congregation members who have lost a loved one. But what a privilege and responsibility to be able to bring a law-gospel sermon to extended family or to strangers! It has happened more than once that a total stranger approached after a funeral and expressed thanks, saying, “We never heard a sermon like that.” Just recently upon preaching on the text, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23) at a funeral (with the theme, “The Truth Hurts, but it also Heals”) a couple said upon leaving the cemetery, “That was a good sermon.” To this we responded, “It is the truth.” They in turn said, “Yes it is. Thank you.” Who knows how the Spirit of God works in a heart because a pastor brings the truth concerning the cause of death, and the comfort of the gospel which witnesses to eternal life in Christ.
“Preach to the choir” faithfully, but thank the Lord for every opportunity the Lord presents to bring the Word to those not yet in tune with the truth! Thank the Lord for your pastor who faithfully feeds the flock, and pray for the success of the Word in whatever forum he is privileged to share that Word.