By Paul de Plata
Interact Magazine 1991
Volume 2 Number 3
A statement attributed to one of the ancient Greek philosophers is true: ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ And yet how few of us truly search ourselves. How seldom we probe hidden motives and evaluate our unspoken desires! Maintaining our rapid place, we rarely if ever put on the brakes of our lives, pull over, and take sufficient time to examine the true condition of our souls and the true condition of our ministry.
One area in which this will show most seriously is the area of our preaching. Even though we claim this is possibly the most important area of our ministry how few of us really take the time required to adequately prepare the spiritual food needed for God’s people.
In the Bible, the phrase, ‘Thus says the Lord’ appears more than two thousand times. The pastor who has the Bible in his hand is a tower of spiritual strength. If, however, he depends solely on his own personal speculations about life and the times, he is only a paper tower, one that they slightest wind of disagreement can blow down.
My appeal to the pastor, therefore, is to preach expository sermons. When we stand on the Word of God our ministry will be established on a solid foundation.
But there is a catch! Such preaching will never come together late on a Saturday night as we pace the study wondering ‘What will I preach tomorrow?’ the expository preacher will take time for study and preparation. And if the Sunday message is not based on a thorough study of God’s Word, it will be of little ultimate value to the congregation.
I know that this approach to preaching will take time. But time is not really our problem. We all have the same amount of time – it is in fact the one commodity we all have in common. Our problem is the use of time. Sadly, many of us in ministry have failed to be organised in the use of our time because we have been conditioned to be more available to people than we really need to be.
To me, the secret lies in keeping your appointment book filled – not empty. But keep it filled with the right pursuits of your time. Let me explain. If you are a pastor, avoid like the plague the temptation to squander your time on endless empty engagements. Instead, fill your calendar with appointments with God for Bible study, sermon preparation and prayer. I find the secret for me is to keep my mornings for God and my afternoons for pastoral ministry in the field. If someone asks you to attend a meeting on a certain morning, tell that person you already have an important engagement at that time. And keep that engagement – with God in the study. The endless demands on your time are skim milk; you cannot live on skim milk all through the week and preach cream on Sunday.
If you can, have your study in you home where you can avoid the inevitable interruptions that you will have at the church. When you get up in the morning, go to your study. Keep the time holy and sacred for God.
When you stand before your people, tell them that your mornings are to be kept sacred for prayer and Bible study. In the afternoons you can do the work of the church. In the evenings you can attend necessary meetings. But in the mornings let people know you want to be left alone with the Lord and His Word. Your people will respect your wishes. And when they sit in the pew before you, they will know by the message you preach that you have been with Jesus.
Rev Paul de Plata is the minister of the Islington Baptist Church, N.S.W.
© Paul de Plata (1 November 1991)