Worthy of double honor | Expository advocating – Part 1
Preaching is a fool’s task. Paul says as much when he tells the Corinthians that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Cor 1:17). There are a lot of preachers and congregations who agree so strongly with that diagnosis that they’ve deemed it necessary to modify the way preaching is done in their church. They’ve gotten rid of the traditional sermon, which is viewed by some as archaic and abusive, in favor of dialogue and conversation.
Paul was telling the truth when he said that preaching the gospel is folly, but he also says, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor 1:27). A commitment to expository preaching takes a firm belief in the power of God’s Word and a humble recognition that the God-appointed means of preaching is better than whatever impressive or efficient model we might devise. God will build his church through expository preaching, and it takes a committed fool to believe it and do it. This means there will be times when your pastor feels deeply the reality that he is engaging in a fool’s task and will cry out with Paul, “Who is sufficient for these things” (2 Cor 2:16)?
If your preacher is a committed fool, he will need encouragement. That might not seem obvious, but the reality is that the pastorate can be a discouraging place. Not only does the very idea of preaching look foolish in the world’s eyes (and occasionally in those of the congregation), but discouragement seems to come from every direction even as he tries to serve the Lord and love his people. Maybe his own sin is overwhelming him and hurting those around him. Maybe there’s tension at home. Maybe he can’t make ends meet financially. Maybe he’s feeling inadequate after listening to a John Piper sermon. Maybe a member made a snide comment after a sermon that he can’t shake. Maybe it seems like no one follows along as he preaches. Whatever it is, these things take a toll.
That’s where you, the church member, come in. If you’re a member at a church and you’re regularly hearing the Bible exposited, you have much for which to be thankful. If your preacher is diligent to preach the whole counsel of God, to let the content and structure of the text dictate that of his sermon and to apply the Bible to your life so that you’re walking in the truth, you are blessed.
Paul says that those who labor faithfully in preaching and teaching are worthy of “double honor” (1 Tim 5:17) and are to be respected and esteemed highly in love (1 Thess 5:12-13). That honor, respect and high estimation is to come from the church members. Hopefully you actually want to encourage your pastor, but you should also see that the Bible exhorts you to do so.
When I use the word “encourage,” I don’t mean that you should merely say nice things to your pastor to flatter him and make him feel better. I mean you should consider “how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24). As Kevin DeYoung says, encouragement “is not about commending nice people to make them feel good but about commending the work of the gospel in others to the glory of God.” Your pastor doesn’t need flattery, but he does need genuine, biblical encouragement that helps him keep his hands to the plow as he works to cut a straight path in his ministry. If you’re not sure how to do that, then here are some practical ideas for encouraging your pastor.
“Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thess 5:25). That was the apostle Paul who said that. If the apostle Paul needed prayer, your pastor does, too. Pastors are ordinary men, but they hold an extraordinary office. The New Testament places unique responsibility on pastors to shepherd God’s people by teaching, preaching, counseling, leading and serving. This responsibility carries serious ramifications: pastors will face a stricter judgment (Jas 3:1) and will give account before God for the souls with which they’ve been entrusted (Heb 13:17). This is not an office to be entered into lightly.
The New Testament is not the only source of pressure that pastors experience, however. Our culture, with all of its resistance to authority and cynicism toward the Bible, eagerly anticipates the next report of a pastor falling into sin. This happens with sickening frequency, and with it comes yet more disrepute on the bride of Christ.
With all of this, it should be clear that one of the most loving and faithful things you can do as a church member is to pray for your pastor. Pray for him as you prepare for church, pray for him with your family, with other church members or ask him if you can pray for him in person.
There are a host of ways you can pray for your pastor: Pray that he would conduct himself wisely in a life of obedience that remains above reproach (1 Tim 3:2); pray that he would love and be faithful to his wife (Eph 5:25-33); pray that he would raise his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4); pray that he would love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk 12:30); pray that he would faithfully shepherd the flock of God (1 Pet 5:1-3); pray that he would flee temptation (1 Thess 4:3-8); pray that he would be a man of unceasing prayer (Eph 6:18) and pray that he would bind himself to the Scriptures and commit himself to expounding the Word of God rather than his own opinions (2 Tim 4:1-4). This list is by no means exhaustive, but there is no better place to start than by praying God’s own words for your pastor.
James M. Hamilton Jr. is associate professor of biblical theology at Southern Seminary. He has written and contributed to a number of works including What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns. You can read more by Hamilton at his blog Jimhamilton.info. Also, follow him on Twitter: @DrJimHamilton. This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Towers.
Matt Damico is an M.Div graduate of Southern Seminary and is currently serving as the pastor of worship at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. You can follow Matt on twitter at: @mattpdamico or at MattDamico.wordpress.com.