Preaching and Teaching: You and the Ministry
“I still feel the shame and failure. I had done my best, but no one was moved by my preaching. When the believers came to pray, I knelt in a corner and wept uncontrollably: the sermon. . . the preaching . . . was a total failure . . . worst of all, no one came forward for salvation! Had God made a mistake? No, I had made the mistake. That was it . . . God had not called me. I was not called to preach . . .I would never preach again . . . .”
“As I huddled there in misery, a hand touched my shoulder. ‘Brother, will you help us pray with those who came forward?’ I couldn’t believe my eyes! Eleven people had come for salvation.”
The writer of these words became a successful pastor and an outstanding preacher, but he wrote these words when he was only beginning to preach. Remember this key, biblical principle: the power of preaching is in the message, not in the messenger. Do not get weary in doing the right thing when God has called you to preach (see Galatians 6:9).
You are one of a great company of believers who has answered the Lord’s call. Preaching and teaching are methods you can use to save the lost and help believers become strong Christians. This course will help you acquire the skills needed to prepare and present lessons and sermons with success and confidence. This lesson will help you to know the kind of person the Lord wants you to be, and the kind of work He wants you to do.
The Concept of Ministry
The Scriptural Pattern
What is ministry? How can I learn to minister effectively? What kind of person must I be? How do I preach and teach? These and other questions may have been in Timothy’s mind when he first felt he should enter the ministry. Titus, another New Testament preacher, may have been faced with similar questions.
Your interest in this course suggests that you are involved in some aspect of church ministry (or that you expect to be later on). Perhaps you have questions like those just mentioned. If so, there is a place to turn for help: the Scriptures. The Pastoral Epistles (First and Second Timothy and Titus) are letters written by the apostle Paul that are specifically directed to those who are called to the work of the ministry. Read these epistles thoroughly.
You will need to refer to them in the days and years ahead as you serve the Lord and participate in the ministry of preaching and teaching. These letters do not contain everything the New Testament has to say concerning the ministry, but they are inspired and essential.
Paul thought of the ministry as a privilege. He remembered with regret the former days when he had persecuted the church and opposed the Lord Jesus (1 Timothy 1:12–14). When he lists the things of which he is proud, he counts his own achievements mere garbage to be thrown away. To him everything is a complete loss except the knowledge of Christ (Philippians 3:8– 11). Even sufferings and persecutions for the gospel’s sake only brought into focus the glory of sharing Christ’s sufferings. He considered his own physical weaknesses as an opportunity for Christ to show His power. Paul wrote, “I delight in weaknesses,in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
In his pastoral letters, Paul wrote about church leadership to two young men, his sons in the faith. In the next section we will see what he said to Timothy and Titus about the kind of man a minister of the gospel must be and the kind of work he is called to do.
General and Specific Ministries
What is the ministry? Let us go to the Scriptures for an answer. In the structure of the church, many are called to serve who are not called into the ministry of preaching and teaching. This is seen in 1 Timothy 3:8–13. These helpers (sometimes referred to as deacons) do not serve like those described in verses 1–7. (Other listings of those who minister are found in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Romans 12:4–8). Everyone who is a member of the body of Christ has some place of service. All these places of service are important, even though some of them are more prominent. Each ministry contributes in some way to make the church body mature for Christian service. Paul explains that Jesus “gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11–12 ). Examples of this are in the book of Acts.
When the early church faced the problem of distributing funds to the widows, the people chose seven men whom the apostles put in charge of the matter. This action freed the apostles from this responsibility so that they were able to give themselves completely to the ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:1–4). Acts 6 shows the mathematics of ministry. First, there was division, as some were grumbling. This led to addition, that is the church added deacons. Then there was subtraction, as the apostles subtracted duties from their shoulders like serving tables. All this led to multiplication as the church grew.
Dorcas helped the needy in Joppa by making shirts and coats for them (Acts 9:36–41). Joseph’s name was changed to Barnabas because he was such an encouragement to others (Acts 4:36). He befriended Paul and introduced him to the apostles and the church at Jerusalem (Acts 9:26–27). Later, he searched for Paul in Tarsus and brought him to Antioch to help in the ministry of that church (Acts 11:25–26). Barnabas also served as a teacher and prophet (Acts 13:1), and later he was sent with Paul to do missionary work (Acts 13:2). Ministry is service, and New Testament Christians found many ways to serve the Lord.
In the midst of the many and varied ministries of the church, the Lord places some who perform a specific service. Paul uses the human body to illustrate these ministries.
Christ is the head of His body, the church (Ephesians 1:22– 23). Each believer is a member of His body and serves in some way (1 Corinthians 12:4–6). Although all believers are called to minister in the general sense described above, some are given a specific ministry, a special service to the church. Preaching and teaching are two specific ministries given to the church to help prepare God’s people for Christian service and to bring the whole church to unity and maturity (Ephesians 4:12–13). They are our special interest in this course.
Qualifications for Ministry
As we consider the matters before us, read prayerfully the Scriptures assigned. Ask yourself, “What is the Lord telling His people in these verses? What must I do to respond to what these verses say to me? The Holy Spirit will help you to understand what it means and how it applies to you.
Some of the qualifications of New Testament elders (a biblical word for pastor) are given in 1 Timothy 3:1–7. These verses describe the kind of person you must be if you are to have a place of ministry in the church. Read this passage carefully before going on. Paul begins by commending those who desire a place of ministry. This desire to minister is one evidence of the call of God upon your life. But the desire, even the call, is not enough. God gives basic requirements that you must meet. You must first be what God wants you to be; then you can do what He wants you to do. You will never rise above your character in God’s work.
Therefore, search your heart. Every person who wants to minister in God’s work must ask why he or she wants to minister. Why do you want to teach? To preach? To serve? You alone can answer these questions to your own conscience and to God.
Paul begins the list of qualifications for those who minister by saying that they must be without fault. This does not mean that they will be perfect. It does mean that they should strive to earn a good report by having no charge of immorality or false doctrine against them. One who ministers must be noted for honesty, purity, and uprightness. These are an important part of good Christian character. This requirement is repeated twice in Titus 1:6–7. (See also Titus 2:7–8.)
Paul’s first letter to Timothy makes specific demands on the family life of one who serves in the church. To meet these requirements a man is to be the husband of one wife and is to manage his family well. The person who ministers must always be an example of Christian morality in his family life. He is to govern his family with such uprightness and love that their respect for him moves them to honor his leadership. The apostle shows a similarity between church life and the family. If a man cannot manage his family, he cannot care for the church. Jesus taught this principle: “‘You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things’” (Matthew 25:21).
A Christian minister is to be sober, self-controlled and orderly. There should be nothing coarse or uncouth in the conversation or the conduct of a minister. Both in his manner and appearance he should represent well the gospel.
With respect to the ministry itself, Paul says three things in his letter to Timothy. First, the one who ministers is to welcome strangers. In Timothy’s day this command was important to the spread of the gospel, since those who ministered needed places of lodging in their travels. It also strengthened a meaningful custom of hospitality common among eastern peoples. Opening one’s home to others for refreshments, a meal, or even a place to spend the night were marks of hospitality.
Second, Paul says that one who ministers must be able to teach. Since a major responsibility of those who minister is to teach the Scriptures to others, a minister must be a capable teacher. A person who feels incapable of teaching must apply himself to study so that he may become a good teacher.
Finally, Paul discourages those who are new in the faith from entering the ministry. It takes time to prove leadership qualities, which the ministry requires, for it is by being a follower that one grows into being an effective and capable minister of the Word. This, of course, does not mean that a new convert cannot have a meaningful place of general ministry or service as described earlier.
Those who minister the Word are warned against the love of money. Few people are as scorned as the person who enters the ministry for personal gain. God has a plan for meeting your personal needs and you must look to Him to provide for you. Condemnation comes quickly to a minister who is greedy for possessions.
Those who serve in the ministry are to be patient, not given to wine, not strikers, nor brawlers. Instead of drunkenness, violence, and contention, they are to be known for kindness, graciousness and peace.
It is very important that the Christian who serves in ministry be respected by those who are outside the church fellowship. What a person teaches others to be he must be himself. If there is dishonesty, unfaithfulness, or inconsistency in the life of a leader, he loses influence over those he is trying to lead to God. No matter how devout, correct or sincere the preaching or praying, if our lives are corrupt our efforts will be in vain. Your ministry will never rise above your character.
This brief treatment from Scripture of God’s requirements for ministers may appear stern, demanding, or even severe. Yet, the same Scriptures that elevate and honor a person called to the sacred ministry must set a high standard. Christian ministers must always be aware that they are leading others by who they are, not just by what they say. The responsibility is great because the privilege is great. Jesus said, “‘From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked’” (Luke 12:48).
Every person who has a responsibility for ministering must be a student of the Bible. John Wesley would say to his students preparing for ministry, “Either be a learner or get out of the ministry!” If you preach or teach, you must be well acquainted with the Scriptures you use. Any person who is called to minister the Word is also called to study it, for the first demands the second. If you teach reading you must know how to read. What would you think of a music teacher who did not know music? Wouldn’t you think the same thing about a Bible teacher who did not know the Bible? Study is the price you must pay for the knowledge you gain, and you must pay the price if you are to be an effective preacher of the gospel or teacher of the Word. Let us consider some suggestions on study.
You need to develop a habit of daily study and follow it faithfully. Avoid interruptions or distractions to study. Keep your Bible and notebook at hand. Whatever study helps you have, keep them ready for use when you need them. Write your thoughts as you study. The weakest ink is better than the strongest memory!
Just as you have a regular time for study, you also need a regular place for study. No matter what the place may be used for at other times, make it a place for study at your hour of study. By doing this, when you come to your place you will be in the right frame of mind for this important part of your Christian work.
Remember that the study of the Scripture is somewhat different from the study of ordinary books. Your main objective is to know what the Bible says, to understand what it means, and to obey it (see Ezra 7:10). The major source of help you have is the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised, “‘When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth’” (John 16:13).
The Scriptures are divine revelation. For that reason we must depend on the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. There are two reasons why we must be taught by the Spirit. First, the Spirit alone knows all about God. Second, the Spirit alone can reveal the things of God.
There are study helps available to be used whenever we have opportunity. At the same time we receive special help from the Spirit within. In Matthew 16:13–17 read how Peter understood that Jesus was the Christ. This truth came to him by the revelation of the Father and not by human understanding or experience.
The love of Christ must be the ruling force in everyone who ministers. Paul said, For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14–15)
No motive for the ministry is good enough or strong enough without the love of Christ to give it meaning and power. A lawyer, physician, or merchant may serve people for lesser motives; but a minister must be compelled by the love of Christ. A young preacher once said, “I love preaching!” An older minister replied, “Yes, but do you love people?” “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5). Like Paul, you too can be ruled by love.
In 1 Peter 5:1–7 read the instructions Peter gives on the proper attitude one must have toward the ministry. He compares the role of the one who ministers to that of a shepherd. The people to whom Peter wrote were well-acquainted with sheep. He had heard the figure used by Jesus after His resurrection (John 21:15–19). Only a few days before, Peter had denied that he was a follower of Jesus. In bringing him back into fellowship, Jesus asked thrice for a confession of love and each time He told Peter to care for the flock. The full responsibility of caring for a flock included feeding and tending to all the needs of both the lambs and the grown sheep. This is a beautiful picture of pastoral care.
An effective minister must have both spiritual power and spiritual understanding. The spiritual life you received when you were saved must be cared for. Daily Bible reading and prayer are needed to feed and mature that new life. As you take a place of ministry your service is primarily the ministry of spiritual things to spiritual need. Paul tells us that God has given the Spirit that we might know all He has provided for the church (1 Corinthians 2:9–12). When the specific things God has provided are understood, they can be ministered in the power of the Spirit. The disciples knew the physical
facts of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, yet He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem to be filled with the Spirit before they began to witness to others. He promised power to those who waited for the coming of the Spirit (Acts 1:4–8). Dare we do less than they to prepare ourselves to minister to others?
Other qualifications are needed for the ministry. Some may be scriptural, some traditional or cultural, and others civil. All scriptural requirements must be met. Civil laws must be followed unless they specifically oppose some principle or command of Scripture. The degree to which you must submit to the requirements of tradition and culture is a matter you must settle personally. Prayer, study of the Bible, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit will help you form your personal beliefs on these things. All this will develop and grow as you continue in the place of ministry God has prepared for you.
Two Specific Ministries
The Preaching Ministry
Ministry means service, and since there are many ways to serve there are many ways to minister. But there are specific ministries to the body of Christ, too, such as that of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Now we will consider the ministries of preaching and teaching as two Bible methods of communicating God’s Word.
To preach is “to publicly proclaim, to urge acceptance or abandonment of an idea or course of action; to deliver a sermon” (which is an extended expression of thought on a subject). This definition has evolved from the New Testament concept of preaching, which we shall consider later. From this definition we see that preaching is the public, formal delivery of a sermon by a minister to a congregation. Normally, there are no interruptions
in the course of the sermon. The message of preaching is Jesus Christ as Lord. The primary appeal of preaching to evangelize the lost is to repentance, faith, and commitment. Preaching is also the means by which Christians receive spiritual nourishment and are enabled to mature in the faith.
The command to preach was given by the Lord: “‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation’” (Mark 16:15). Paul twice charged Timothy to preach the Word solemnly and consistently (2 Timothy 4:1–2). In another place he said, “Do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). Preaching is one important method God has chosen to take the gospel to all humankind.
The Teaching Ministry
The command to teach was given by the Lord when He said, “‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’” (Matthew 28:19–20). Paul told Timothy, “Correct, rebuke and encourage, with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). In Paul’s description of a good servant of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 4:4–16) he gives this directive, “Command and teach these things” (v. 11). Teaching is another major method God has chosen to take the gospel to all people everywhere.
To teach is to cause to learn or to help another gain knowledge or skill. It is the explaining in detail of that which has been proclaimed and accepted by faith. A teacher is one who leads the students into learning experiences. And while teaching may consist of the formal, orderly, and usually extended expression of thought on a subject, it also consists of the discussion of ideas as the ones who are taught interact on the subject, with each other, and with the teacher. Teaching involves the arrangement and management of instructional materials and the provision of a good learning environment. Some learning experiences take place in classrooms and some outside the classroom. Teaching implies change in behavior.
Jesus’ command to teach includes the idea of causing people to follow Him and make His teaching the rule of their lives (Matthew 28:19–20). Paul gave thanks to God for the Roman Christians who obeyed the teaching they had received (Romans 6:17). After Peter’s message, the multitude at Jerusalem wanted to know what to do and Peter gave the inquirers further instruction (Acts 2:36–42). The content of Christian teaching is the Bible. The appeal of teaching is to understanding and practice. The goal is Christian maturity.
New Testament preaching and teaching are really two expressions of one ministry. It would be incorrect, then, to limit the meaning of preaching and teaching by saying that New Testament ministers either preached the gospel to the lost or taught doctrine to the church. Scripture shows that there was a measure of teaching in the preaching of Jesus and the apostles, and, also a degree of preaching in their teaching. There is a fine line of distinction between teaching and preaching in Jesus’ ministry in the synagogues (Matthew 4:23; Luke 4:44; Mark 1:21, 22, 27 and 38). Likewise, Paul preached and taught in the synagogue at Corinth, persuading both Jews and Gentiles that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 18:4, 5, 11). And at Ephesus he taught the message of salvation and the lost were saved (Acts 19:8, 18– 19). After the conversion of the Philippian jailer, Paul preached water baptism and practical Christian service (Acts 16:30–34). In general, it can be inferred from New Testament writings that preaching relates more to the foundation of Christian experience and teaching more to the superstructure. Ministry needs both to be complete.
The full command of the Great Commission is that the church is to reach every country (Acts 1:8), every culture (Matthew 28:19–20), and every creature (Mark 16:15) by witnessing, teaching, and preaching. These are the first considerations of preaching and teaching.