PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The priority of Pastor’s ministry”. By: Ron Woodrum
As we read the Book of Jeremiah, we realize that Jeremiah, the Prophet was given a very challenging assignment. He was called to speak the Word of God, to His people, who were on the verge of disaster, for not listening to the Word, and forsaking the Lord. Jeremiah felt totally inadequate for this assignment. God told him to be faithful, and His presence would be with him during his days of ministry. That did not make his ministry any easier. They rejected his message; they rejected his ministry. They opposed him; beat him; imprisoned him; threw him in a old abandoned cistern; God then told him…”I will give you a Shepherd’s heart, according to My heart, and I will feed (“rau”-“shepherd”) with knowledge (“sakal”- “prudent wisdom”) and understanding (“deah”-“knowledge”). God knew that without that kind of heart, a shepherd’s heart, there is no way that he would be able to faithfully carry out his ministry. There were times that Jeremiah felt that God had deceived him. He decided that he would not carry out this thankless ministry. But he said, “If I say, ‘I will not mention His word, or speak anymore in His name”, His word is in my heart, like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot!”
I have been in ministry now for over 50 years! I was licensed to preach March of 1969. Much of my early preaching was “parroting” the type of sermons that I had heard my Pastor preach. They were topical sermons. He even introduced me to a series of books called “Simple Sermons” Simple Sermons on…various subjects…Simple Sermons for Sunday Morning…Simple Sermons for Sunday Night. These Sermons were brief sermons by a masterful Southern Baptist Preacher Herschel Ford. They were good. But honestly, they were shallow. The biggest problem was, as much as I tried to make them my own, and I did, to the best of my ability, they still seemed “canned”, a lot like serving my people “T.V. Dinners!” When I went away to College, I had the privilege of meeting Preachers and Professors that did not criticize that kind of preaching, but instead showed me a better way. They introduced all of us young students to Preachers who did expository preaching. They preached the Bible. Men like W.A. Criswell; Adrian Rogers; Charles Stanley; Warren Wiersbe; Jerry Vines; J. Harold Smith. These men held the Bible in high regard, the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and they preached it with power. But they preached it with depth and dynamic. We were also taught to study the Word of God to be prepared to preach. We were taught to use commentaries…BUT NEVER TO LEAN ON TO TAKE THE PLACE OF STUDYING THE WORD OF GOD FOR OURSELVES. FOR COMMENTARIES DISAGREE ON MOST EVERYTHING. YOU MIGHT AS WELL FLIP A COIN TO GET THE REAL MEANING OF THE WORD OF GOD. God chose the two most expressive languages to reveal His word in. There are no languages more expressive than Hebrew and Greek. To learn these languages, and to use them in study is to open up a surplus of the Truth of God with such depth, that the depth can never be plumbed, by one person, in a lifetime. We were taught to “Study to show ourselves approved of God, a worker that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (II Timothy 2:15). For the first time I understood the immeasurable depths of the Word of God. I was reminded of Ezekial’s vision of the river that began to flow from out of the Temple. “It became water to the ankles; water to the knees; water to waste; then water over the head; water to swim in!” His vision was of the time in the Millennium, when knowledge of the Lord will so flood the earth, it will be “as the waters cover the sea!” (Hab. 2:14). I dedicated my life to “learning as much of the depth of the Word of God that I could”. I dedicated my life to learning how to preach it and teach it so that God’s people could be edified! After all, Paul said, God gave gifted men, “Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastor-teachers for the edifying of the believers, so that they could together do the work of the ministry”. (Eph. 4:11-12. Jesus told Peter, “If you really love me…feed my little lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep!” (John 21: 15-16). The word Pastor (“poimen”-means “shepherd”, and our English word Pastor is just the Latin word-“pastor‘-for the Greek word “poimen”. So, the Pastor’s life centers around “feeding, protecting, and leading the sheep”. Like Jeremiah, the Pastor is only to speak the Words that the Lord gives him from the Word. He is not to preach to “tickle itchy ears!” as will be the trend of the Last Days (II Timothy 4:3). I remember hearing one of the greatest Theologians the world has ever known. His name was Carl F.H. Henry. He became the key leader for the Evangelical Theological Society; He became the first editor of Billy Graham’s magazine-“Christianity Today”. At the Second Baptist Church of Houston, Texas I sat in his class, in 1987, and heard him say that soon we would see a trend away from the Word of God. People would revise worship to focus on music, praise, emotion, and entertainment, and would relegate the preaching and the teaching of the Word of God to a 15-minute addendum to the main part of the service. He went on to say-“The fate of the Bible is the fate of Christianity and even civilization itself. If the world and evangelicals forsake this Book, the end result is Society’s theological, spiritual, and moral suicide.” Woodrow Kroll, of the Back to the Bible ministry said the same thing. He said the New Millennium, with its “seeker friendly Churches” have changed the entire focus of worship, and “the casualty is the Word of God!”
This trend has made it difficult for those of us who were trained to focus our ministry on two things: Winning the Lost and Preaching and Teaching the Word of God. Paul told Timothy “preach the Word, in season and out of season” and “do the work of an evangelist”. He said that faithful Pastors “that rule well should be worthy of double honor, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO LABOR IN THE WORD AND TEACHING”. The word labor is “kopios”-which means “work to the point of exhaustion”. Shallow teaching doesn’t require that! There was a time when such ministry was held in high esteem, and God’s people could not get enough of it! But now those who appreciate that are few and far between. There is an important truth in Scripture that we have forgotten. Hebrews 13:17 “Obey them that have rule over you, and submit themselves: for they watch for your souls, as they must give an account to God, so that they can do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you!”. The word “obey” is the word “peitho”-means “to trust, look to for direction”. There is teaching and preaching for “little lambs”; There is meat and the deep things of God that God’s people need to be kept from being “swept away by every wind of doctrine”. There needs to be a balance. Pray that I will learn to find that balance. I must preach what God leads me to preach. I must teach what God leads me to teach. But it is my goal to edify my people, and their needs, at the time. I heard Haddon Robinson, the great Homiletics teacher. He was invited to preach at a students Church. He asked him to preach on John 14:1-3. He said he prepared a very good exegetical Bible study on that text. He taught it. Afterwards he felt that the audience of older folks just wanted to hear about heaven and its comforting hope for people that were about to be going there. He said, “I should have sensed that and adjusted my message accordingly”. We need preaching and teaching that comes to the ankles; to the knees; to the waist; over our heads, enough to swim in. It just has to be at the right time. Lord I have that “Pastor’s heart, you gave me that! I need you to feed me both your knowledge and wisdom on how to share it.