How to Prepare Powerful Pastoral Preachers

FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS

volume 18, number 19, May 9, 2019

“The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” -Proverbs 29:25

How to Prepare Powerful Pastoral Preachers

Every man already in the pastoral ministry or preparing for it in Seminary must first of all have an internal call from the Lord to preach. This inward call, while admittedly somewhat subjective, nonetheless is vital for him. He must be like Jeremiah when he said, in the midst of his severe persecution, that he wished to have never been called to preach, but he must because the word of God was like a fire in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9). The young man needs this inward call because there will be many very hard times and he will be tempted to walk away from ministry. The internal call will give him the strength to keep going. Of course, he must have an external call too. People must see his giftedness for ministry, and a church must issue him a call to pastor a particular church. 

Now after his seminary education, which included a few courses on preaching in which he probably preached a sermon or two before the class or student body in a chapel service, after his one year internship where he may have preached fifteen or twenty times, and his examination for ordination he is ready to go. He is prepared for preaching, right? Wrong!
A surgeon, after four years of college and three or four years of medical school, will spend another three or four years in a residency program, working extremely long hours, experiencing many sleepless nights, making very little money, and performing hundreds of surgeries. Only then is he qualified to work on peoples bodies. 

So, are men ordained into the gospel ministry prepared to preach when they have preached fifteen or twenty sermons? I don’t think so.
But how shall they find enough opportunities to preach in order to hone their craft? After all, at most, churches have two worship services per week. The Senior Pastor is the main guy and probably preaches at least forty weeks per year, morning and evening. A very generous Senior Pastor may regularly give the evening service to the young ordinand but still, fifty sermons a year will take the man a long time to become proficient in preaching. Besides that, most congregations are very patient and affirming to the young preacher. They rarely criticize him. They put up with his enslavement to his notes or manuscript. They patiently wait for him to grow out of his temptation to “show off” his new knowledge of Greek and Hebrew and the ancient church fathers, and his myriad of quotes from the trifecta-C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Tim Keller. 

Just like a young surgeon who must be put in the “fire” of hundreds of surgeries in a three or four year period to be well prepared, so must the preacher preach hundreds of sermons in a short time frame. But where can he possibly find that many opportunities? Wait, I have an idea. He could always go to a nursing home and preach weekly. Okay, not bad. The problem however is that this still is only one sermon per week, and let’s face it, his audience will generally be people who are hard of hearing, are constantly falling asleep, or perhaps mentally challenged. Where else can he go? 

How about open air preaching? Really? Yeah really. There are numerous benefits to open air preaching, not the least of which is the privilege of lifting up Jesus as the only Savior of sinners to people who are in great need of the Savior. The street preacher can also preach as much as he wants. Let’s say he attends the Samuel Davies Conference on Evangelism each August in Bristol, Tennessee. He will be at the Bristol Race Track Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. He will be on a team of preachers and he will take his turn preaching. He can preach at least three times per day for three days. If he goes weekly to a SEC or ACC football game he can preach three or four times each game. In the fall of the year he could preach weekly and garner another thirty or forty sermons. And then he could preach weekly at an abortion clinic or before a public school on public property as the school is letting out for the day. There’s another four or five opportunities during the week. A young pastor or seminary student who took this kind of work seriously could easily preach hundreds of sermons in a three or four year period. He may not be called or gifted to be an open air preacher long term. His gifts may be more pastoral than evangelistic, but he will certainly benefit from the sheer repetition open air preaching affords him. 

To go further, the young preacher will face opposition and ridicule unlike anything he has ever faced or probably will face in the church. It gets pretty rough out there, at times, but that’s good. The ridicule and opposition will toughen his hide. It will also force him to decide whether or not he will love the sinner and the mocker or whether he will discount him and write him off. This is also valuable as he prepares to deal with very difficult people in the local church. Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Open air preaching will give him plenty of opportunities to do just that. 

And open air preaching will sanctify the young preacher. I can promise you this, from personal experience and from talking to many street preachers, most are not at first that excited to get out there and preach. Our flesh craves comfort and ease. The flesh wants to coast through life. The flesh avoids conflict at all costs. The flesh wants acceptance and avoids, like the plague, looking like a fool. My flesh certainly does. A slight sense of dread still comes over me as I prepare to do open air preaching. I have no idea what will happen, and the flesh fears the unknown. Let’s face it. We tend to fear man. But what does God say? “The fear of man brings a snare.” If we fear man then sooner or later we will be tripped up by the world. We will love the world and James says that if we are a friend of the world then we hate God (James 4:4). Paul, however, tells us that we are to walk by the Spirit and not carry out the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). He tells us to put to death, by the Spirit, the deeds of the body that we may live (Romans 8:13). He tells us to put off the old man and put on the new man (Ephesians 4:22-24). He says, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,” (Colossians 2:6). 

The young preacher who steps out of his comfort zone into the streets or on the college campuses of our nation will, by the Spirit, overcome his fear and walk in faith. And the second part of Proverbs 29:25 says, “But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” The lovingkindness of the Lord will surround him (Psalm 32:10). As he draws near to God in faith, God will draw near to him (James 4:8).  

Most importantly, however, the young man who gives himself to open air preaching will experience the amazing reality of Christ’s presence in ways, perhaps, he has never before experienced. He will be glorifying God as He exalts the only Savior of sinners. 

So what about it? If you are a pastor or a young man preparing for the gospel ministry, I challenge you to contact me, no matter where you live. I can put you into contact with open air preachers who would love to help you dip your toe in the water. If you do so, then it will not be long before you dive in head first.  

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