“Making a hospital visit to a suffering family makes more of an impact than the three points you made in your message on Sunday.”
Occasionally, I hear statements like this at pastors’ conferences and preaching seminars. The idea? Pastoral presence is more important than a pastor’s preaching. The implication? It’s better to spend less time worrying about your preaching and more time engaging people at a personal level.
Sounds good. But it’s shortsighted. And ultimately unhelpful.
Sure, there are pastors who spend all day in the study and never among the people. Those kinds of pastors need to be prodded out the door so they can better serve the flock. (Not to mention that being with the flock greatly enhances your preaching!)
It’s also true that most of your congregation already forgot the main points from your sermon last week. And yes, church members will long remember your presence during their time of crisis. But the point of your preaching isn’t that everyone will remember all the information you present anyway. Neither should preaching preparation be forgotten in the attempt to increase one’s pastoral presence.
No, instead we need to consider the relationship between preaching and presence in a way that measures impact beyond what is immediate, powerful, and memorable. That’s why I say: Do not downplay the long-term, cumulative effect of your preaching.
Preaching is formative in ways that go beyond mere information retention. Every time a pastor opens up the Word and preaches the gospel, he is showing his church how to approach the Bible. Pastors who elevate the Scriptures week after week, sermon after sermon, lead their people to approach the Bible in the same way.
An exhortation to pastors
Pastors, don’t underestimate the cumulative effect of your preaching. You are not dumping information into brains. You are forming the habits of your people, teaching them how to read and understand and apply the Bible for themselves. How you preach week after week matters just as much as what you preach.
Weekly confrontation with the Word of God slowly changes how we look at the world. We see God more clearly, our human state, and the future of the world within the Bible’s framework, even if we don’t remember all the information in an individual message. Sermons gradually change the way we think and feel and believe and hope.
Yes, your presence at the funeral home and the hospital bed is vital. It matters greatly. But there’s a reason why your presence during suffering is so powerful: The Word. A pastor’s visit is unique because the pastor is the one who speaks authoritatively from God’s Word week in and week out. That’s why Christians want their pastor to be by their side, and not just a fellow church member.
So let’s not pit pastoral presence against sermon preparation. Your preaching influences your presence, and vice versa. May the Lord open our eyes to see the quiet, subtle influence that 1000 sermons have on the people God has entrusted to our care
Thank You Trevor Waxx for sharing this helpful post