Preach a double – edged sermon | CT pastors

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A man only preaches this sermon well to others who preach themselves in his own soul. And whoever does not feed and thrive on the food he makes available to others will hardly make it tasty; Yes, he doesn't know, but that the food he's provided can be poison unless he really tried it himself. If the word does not dwell within us with strength, it will not go away with strength from us.
– John Owen out The true nature of a gospel church and its government

W.When I finished the seminar, I was preparing for the worst. I had heard all my horror stories about the ministry, but to my surprise, ministry in my first pastorate was a joy. I tried to apply everything I had learned and was busy and active in the church: teaching Sunday school, orchestrating awana, reforming the church's finances, and so on.

The real surprise, however, did not come from potlucks, men's breakfasts or other church activities. it came in the quiet alcoves of my study. As I was preparing sermon after sermon, I noticed that my messages went beyond people's heads and most often penetrated their hearts when these messages first took root in my own soul. My church could tell the difference, and over time I could too.

I began to learn from experience that an accurate or well-researched sermon was far from a sermon I had wrestled, cried, and carried to the pulpit like a fire that could not be put out. I had to do the internal work of preaching my sermon to myself before I preached it to my people. It was 17th-century Puritan John Owen who first said, "A man preaches this sermon well to others who preach in his own soul." Owen was an influential leader in his day, wrote theological texts, served as Oliver Cromwell's personal chaplain, and preached to the British Parliament. But Owen wasn't just preaching on England's national stage. He was also a pastor of local churches.

Owen is a role model for preachers today for many reasons: his talented rhetoric, his insight into the biblical text, and his ability to move from theological mountain peaks to the common terrain of an average Christian. But what distinguishes him as an influence in my own ministry is his realization that his first duty as a pastor was to give his flock the floor – and for that he had to feed himself first.

The importance of preaching the word to himself was a topic Owen often came up with. In a preaching ordination entitled "The Pastor's Duty" he preached from Jeremiah 3:15: "And I will give you pastors to my heart who will nourish you with knowledge and understanding" (King James Version). With all the emphasis on the importance of feeding the flock by preaching Scripture, Owen emphasized the absolute impossibility of this task if the pastors did not start with themselves. Owen remarked, "We must strive to know these secrets thoroughly, otherwise we will be useless to much of the Church."

If we enter the pulpit without first transforming our souls through the gospel that we want to share, we will not help our churches. In fact, we can harm those we want to serve. Owen went so far as to compare messages that had not moved the preacher to "poison" because if a pastor "does not find the power of it in his own heart, he cannot have any reason to trust that it has power in the heart." is from others. "

I admit it is easier said than done. Not every sermon will feel like a fire that cannot be put out. Not every sermon will come from the heart, or at least feel like it comes from the heart. I am the first to admit that on some Sundays the Word of God did not penetrate my heart as intended. Maybe it's sin. Maybe it's a distraction. Or maybe it's just fatigue.

In addition, your sermons do not always affect your people as they have influenced you. Maybe that's because of the people's sin. Maybe they're distracted. Or maybe they are tired too.

Owen's recipe for this pastoral reality is not a quick fix. It is a routine, a habit of working life. It is the internal work that takes place far from the service's external actions: church events, committee meetings, pre-classes and leadership. It is a habit that takes time, practice and, above all, the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to work in and through the Word in our lives in the long run. Just as nothing supports the growth of a Christian like a life in training under the preached word, nothing can replace a life in admonition to one's own soul.

In order to really get this admonition week after week, we preachers need to become recipients on purpose. We have to choose to listen attentively and patiently to the Word and the Spirit. Owen knew why he finished preaching his ordination by reminding his new ordinand that prayer is the pastor's best friend. Each pastor should cultivate what Owen calls a “spirit of prayer”.

However, the prayer that the pastor's study fills during preaching preparation is not just for the pastor. Rather, Owen taught that the pastor should pray for the church. "The more we pray for our people," said Owen, "the better we should be instructed on what to preach to them." How right Owen is. When I look back on my pastoral years, the sermons that flew off the runway with great conviction were paved with prayers not only for myself, but especially for my people.

Pastor, preach the sermon before the sermon. Preach to yourself. Prayerfully receive the instruction and conviction that comes from the Word of God. Then preach to your people. And maybe your people will be transformed by your side during a lifetime of service.

Matthew Barrett is an associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, executive editor of Credo magazineand host of Credo podcast. His latest book is None greater: The non-domesticated qualities of God(Baker Books).

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