Most pastors wear many different hats. On most weeks the average pastor visits church members, communicates with visitors, speaks with missionaries, counsels those with needs, disciples a few men, prays with those who are hurting, meets with church lay leaders, marries or buries, leads staff meetings, participates in community events, administrates a tight budget and resolves conflicts. I could mention a myriad of other responsibilities, but you get the picture. A pastor has much to do.
In the midst of all of those pastoral tasks, though, the pastor also must prepare and deliver several sermons each week. Now, if the pastor is not careful, it is very easy to put personal study and sermon preparation on the back burner. After all, there are congregational needs that must be met. Right? I am afraid that many pastors, this one included, often allow the demands of the pastoral schedule to keep us from adequately feeding the flock of God.
Pastors, we must realize the extreme importance of giving ourselves adequate time to pray, study and prepare to feed our people. The reality, though, is that I do not study and prepare just for the benefit of my congregation. No, sermon preparation helps me. My preaching must speak to me. God first must change me before He can use the message to change others.
Here are four personal benefits that I receive from studying for my sermons each week.
1. Teaching Scripture keeps me learning
An outsider would think that after four years of Bible College and four years of Seminary that I would have pretty much exhausted all there is to know about God and the Bible. That simply is not the case. The more that I learn about God, the more I realize how much I need to learn. Proverbs 1:5 says “a wise man will hear and increase learning.”
As pastors and leaders, not only should we be expanding our minds theologically, but we should also be reading and learning about leadership, administration, social issues, and relationship dynamics. There is so much to read and so much to learn. In I Timothy 4:13 Paul challenged Timothy to “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” If you struggle with what to read, here are a few links with recommended lists for pastors and leaders…
2. Teaching Scripture makes me examine myself
Personal Bible study must first be self-convicting before it can become transformational preaching. John Maxwell calls this the “Mirror Principle.” What is the Scripture teaching you? Paul told Timothy in I Timothy 4:16 to “keep a close watch on how you live and your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”
3. Teaching Scripture stretches me spiritually
Not only must I be willing to examine myself in the light of the verses I am teaching, but I also must be willing to do what the say. I must be the first to obey them. How hypocritical it is for us to teach and not practice, for us to exhort and not execute. As the preacher, I must be the first to put the challenge of the text into practice in my life.
As a result, God has stretched me. I have become a more generous giver. God is teaching me to be more gracious and forgiving. I must be a man of prayer and a man of faith. Yes, my preaching of God’s Word is stretching me spiritually and I am so excited about what God is doing in my life!
4. Teaching Scripture keeps me dependent on God
The more I preach, the more I realize that I need God. Exhaustive preparation can never take the place of God’s power. I am learning that I am not witty enough, smart enough, or eloquent enough to accomplish life change. Only God can do that! Jesus said it this way in John 15:5 – “For apart from Me you can do nothing.” That pretty much wraps it up. I must be dependent on Him.
So, whether you are a full-time pastor or a part-time preacher, whether you have preached for years or whether you are just beginning, learn to preach to yourself first. Preaching that changes lives changes the preacher’s life first. Be assured that as God changes you, he will change others also.