By Juan Sanchez
As we begin a new year, allow me to encourage you to prioritize the Word of God in your ministry. Here are five suggestions for how to do this. The points in bold are from Listen Up! A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons by Christopher Ash (with minor alterations).
1. Encourage the church to gather regularly (weekly) with God’s people to hear the Word of God.
It’s important to assemble together! Together, we display the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10).
Gathering together also reminds us we’re not alone. When we’re together, we encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).
If we’re to edify one another, we must meet regularly, weekly. Help your people consider some reasons they’re inclined not to assemble with God’s people. Then encourage them to gather with the church each Lord’s Day.
At High Pointe Baptist Church where I serve as senior pastor, we still meet on Sunday nights. We purposely seek to present a balanced diet of New Testament (on Sunday mornings) and Old Testament (on Sunday evenings), or vice versa.
Whatever your church’s rhythm is for gathering, encourage your people to gather regularly. That gathering where the Word of God is preached is the one setting in which everyone hears the same Scripture at the same time.
It will shape the church and encourage each member to look more like Christ.
2. Remind the church that when you gather with God’s people, they’re to expect God to speak.
As a pastor, don’t you prepare all week, praying that God may speak through you? Don’t you expect the gathered church to hear from God when you gather together?
Shouldn’t God’s people, then, come expecting to hear from God? To see the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, from the pages of Scripture, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit?
God created by His Word. He sustains all things by His Word. He’s given us His Living Word, Jesus, and now, He’s given us the written Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Therefore, whenever we hear the Bible, we’re to receive it as the very words of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Remind the church of these glorious truths.
3. Help the church admit God knows what they need better than they do.
We live in a day when people want their ears tickled (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Some people may not like what they hear in faithful gospel preaching because it offends, convicts, or exposes sin. However, this is precisely what God’s Word is supposed to do (Hebrews 4:12-13).
One of the biggest reasons people don’t gather with the church is sin. They don’t want their sins exposed.
In other words, they can’t stand that the Word of God exposes their sin, so they simply stop gathering. Yet, it’s important for people to know there’s no better place for them to be than with the people of God.
Don’t let Satan deceive your flock! Help them sense the dire need to hear from God.
4. Make sure the sermon comes from the text of the Bible.
The greatest encouragement I can give pastors is to handle the Word of God faithfully so you may be a worker approved by God (2 Timothy 2:15).
To handle the Word of God faithfully, we must continue in our study of Scripture to be taught, rebuked, corrected, and trained for righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
And remember, when we preach, we’re preaching to God’s people in the presence of “God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1).
So, prepare yourself in the Word of God, and prepare your people’s hearts to hear the Word of God. Encourage them to read the sermon text during the week. Ask them to consider the main point of the passage.
Encourage them to ask who, what, when, where, why, and how questions of the text. And urge them to ask the Holy Spirit for understanding and to test what they hear against Scripture just like the Bereans did (Acts 17:10-11).
5. Exhort the church to do what the Bible says TODAY.
After the sermon, allow time for the church to reflect on what God is teaching them. Then, call on them to do it (James 1:22-25). Ask them to write down the ways they are to obey the teaching.
Lead them to pray and ask God for grace that they may obey in faith. Help them ask good heart questions such as, “Is there something in my life that I’m treasuring more than Christ?” and “What prohibits me from obeying what the Lord is calling me to do?”
Then, exhort the church to obey NOW—today by faith (Hebrews 3:12-14).
May our kind Lord grant us the grace to remain faithful in the task He’s called us to. And may He allow us all to see the fruit of our ministries so that we won’t be discouraged.