Persevering in Preaching

by John Meador

John MeadorI was discouraged. Having preached and led the congregation for several years, I looked back and thought, Nothing is happening.' I could see no real evidence of change, no dramatic growth in numbers, and no real signs that anything good was taking place. I was weary."

How many times have you thought those same thoughts? If you never have, God bless you-but if you are a normal person, you've been there and done that.

Preaching is unlike any other profession, in that the job is never complete. We're always "in process." The church is always "being" transformed-and those who follow Christ are always "being" conformed to the image of Christ. But they are never quite there. Not yet, anyway.

A doctor sees patients who sometimes get well and his job is done. A builder finishes a building. An architect signs off on his design. A writer completes a book. But the preacher is never through.

Paul acknowledged this in his encouragement to Timothy. After exhorting Timothy to prove his character to all who knew of him, to give attention to reading the Word and to preaching, and to not neglect his spiritual gift, he then moves to one of the greatest encouragements a preacher can hear.

"Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things" (1 Tim. 4:15-16a).

If a ministry is to be marked by progress, and not merely by successful events, the preacher must absolutely persevere in these things.

The preacher, according to Paul, must keep three things in mind:

1) He must be focused. "Take pains with these thingsbe absorbed in them." The things of the ministry and of preaching must be meditated upon, pondered, and they must occupy our time and attention with little distraction. The translators even go so far as to add their commentary: "be absorbed in them." Simply put, the elements of ministry (which can be summarized as the calling, gifts, and tools God gives us) are divinely distributed and powerful in and of themselves to effect change in God's timing.

My focus cannot be on results, or I will become discouraged. My focus must be on my calling, the Word, and the work of ministry, so that I may do those things God has called me to. I want hear, "Well, done, good and faithful servant" from Him, more than from any other. That takes priority over every other indication of progress I can imagine.

2) He must be consistent. "Pay close attention" The root word of this phrase deals with "having" yourself and your teaching always before you-to hold onto, with the greatest grip possible, the life and ministry God has called you to. I interpret this to mean that, day-in and day-out, we must be consistent and steadfast. It is our life, not just a job. In our consistency, we join the moment-by-moment and year-by-year process of the Holy Spirit working in people's lives.

A consistent life shines. On the other hand, an inconsistent life and ministry do great damage to the Kingdom.

Just days ago, I read in national headlines of another minister whose inconsistent lifestyle was exposed. He was immoral. His ministry had a weekly impact on some 15,000 people, and yet his inconsistent, sinful lifestyle brought great shame and doubt to the growth of God's people.

He did not "pay close attention to himself." It is vital that we be consistent.

3) He must be patient. Like many, I forget that I am a dot on the vast timeline of the Kingdom of God and its work. I forget that it is in accuracy and in patience that lives, families, ministries, and generations will eventually be steered in the direction of the Lord. While I love the short-term victories such as conversion and transformation, I know I must be working for the line and not the dot. That means I must live for eternity and not just today.

So how does that impact preaching? It means that I must persevere in the decidedly non-glamorous disciplines that effective preaching demand of me. It means that I learn to be diligent and steadfast in study, accuracy of interpretation, prayer, godly living, and in the actual delivery of God's Word. I must, above all, trust that God will use me in supernatural ways over time, though I may be discouraged if I see nothing happening right now.

I'm living for the line, not the dot, and for that I must persevere.

John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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