I love to preach. As a student pastor chances are that you love it as well. There’s something special, sacred, and weighty about teaching the Word of God and it’s a practice that we should hold with a great deal of respect and responsibility. It is a blessing every time you get to stand in front of your group of students and deliver God’s Word. It is also a burden. Whether you are preaching to 5 or more than 500, make the most of every opportunity to preach His word.
Unfortunately, no one taught me how to make the most of every opportunity. I wasn’t mentored in this area of ministry, and chances are that you weren’t either. You’ve probably learned by listening and watching other preachers. While this is a good way to learn we have to be careful to not just adopt the practices and style of someone else. God shapes each person He calls to preach in an individualized and specific way in order to accomplish the calling of that person. Yes, that includes you. He has shaped you uniquely even in your preaching to be able to accomplish your calling in student ministry. However, there are some things that should be common in each person who fulfills the calling to preach. One of these is the presence of the gospel in each and every message.
Unless the gospel is present in every message that we give we aren’t truly making the most of every opportunity. That brings us to an important question, especially for those of us who weren’t mentioned in this area of ministry: how do we preach so that the gospel is central and so that we make the most of every opportunity? For the answer I will turn to Jonathan Edwards:
“It does not answer the aim which God had in this institution, merely for men to have good commentaries and expositions on the Scripture, and other good books of divinity; because, although these may tend, as well as preaching, to give a good doctrinal or speculative understanding of the word of God, yet they have not an equal tendency to impress them on men’s hearts and affections. God hath appointed a particular and lively application of his word, in the preaching of it, as a fit means to affect sinners with the importance of religion, their own misery, the necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; to stir up the pure minds of the saints, quicken their affections by often bringing the great things of religion in their remembrance, and setting them in their proper colours, though they know them, and have been fully instructed in them already. ”
There are a couple of things I would like to point out here that should be present in every sermon we preach:
- A particular and lively application of His word – It is thought by some that a gospel-centered sermon is all theology and lite on the application, but this is simply not true. The Bible is meant to affect our lives, and our preaching should always drive people to see the connection between God’s word and our actual lives.
- Affect sinners with their own misery – God’s word, when rightly preached, will convict people of their sin. There’s a view in preaching today that shies away from this leaning only to the positive. People need to be confronted with their sin and as the preacher, part of your role is to display that through God’s word, not to glorify and dwell on sin but to display the need for a Savior. People will never understand the depth of their salvation until they understand the depth of their sin. This brings us to the next point.
- Affect sinners with the necessity of a remedy – Our sermons should drive people to the remedy for their sin: Jesus. We should never have a situation where people are confronted with their sin without also revealing the remedy that God has provided to meet that need.
- Affect sinners with the glory and sufficiency of the remedy provided – Our preaching should teach no other way for our sin to be covered than Jesus. He is sufficient to forgive our sin and to empower us to live our lives as His disciples. A problem that Paul consistently fights in scripture is the practice of preaching Jesus and something else as the way to salvation and right living. That fight is still going on today, and the reality is that it is only Jesus for both salvation and living.
- Stir up the pure minds of the saints and quicken their affections – I love this point because it shows that in each sermon we should preach in such a way that lost people can be saved and that saved people can grow in their faith. It is possible for both to happen and we should strive for that in our preparation and delivery every time. There’s no such thing as an evangelistic sermon and a discipling sermon, there is just a sermon in which both things should be done.
Not everyone preaches this way and there’s a reason for that: it isn’t easy. It takes tremendous preparation and learning to be able to apply these points in a time period that fits the audience, and the calling and responsibility of being a preacher demands the time. There’s so much at stake every time we stand up and deliver a sermon, and this reality should drive us to prepare with great urgency and trust the Lord with the results of His message.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry