The month of March marks my 18th Anniversary as the Lead Pastor of Cross Lanes Baptist Church. I would be happy if God permits, to serve 35 years in the church, but that is up to Him. There are a number of keys to the long-term pastorate, but I want to highlight one that has helped sustain me.
I realized early in ministry that if I did not have a clear plan and path for preaching, I could not be faithful to the work for long. I am not smart enough or creative enough to produce trendy and catchy sermons continuously. In the early days, I preached three distinct messages each week including Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. Later I shifted to two distinct messages a week. I have also preached multiple services on Sunday morning for many years now. A weekly preaching ministry is both a burden and a blessing.
I preach on average, 46 to 47 Sunday mornings per year. This means I have preached well over 2,000 distinct sermons at Cross Lanes Baptist Church not counting weddings, funerals, and other occasions. I have preached Scripture passages more than once, but rarely if ever do I repeat a sermon, and can think of less than a half-dozen times I have done so.
I believe preaching the Bible consistently is one of the keys to the long-term pastorate. I already had a high view of Scripture when I went to seminary, but this was reinforced, and solid training was provided on how to preach the Bible. I was able to put into practice what I had observed of my mentors, and what I learned in my training.
The following are some benefits I see, of preaching the Bible in the long-term pastorate:
When the subject of preaching is the Bible in the long-term pastorate, God and his Word are continually kept in front of the people. The entire ministry is shaped by the Word of God. The Bible permeates everything. The Gospel is proclaimed to lost people who need to be saved, and saved people are encouraged to grow in their faith.
When the preacher continually studies and digs for truth, the truth will get into him. Then he can communicate it to the people. Preaching the Bible is a significant aspect of my personal growth and sanctification.
Preaching the Bible feeds the flock. When the flock is fed, people grow to be more like Jesus. The Word is formative and sustains and shapes the people of God.
The congregation receives a broad range of teaching from the Word of God. The preacher does not have to be concerned about getting stuck on a few favorite topics or subjects. It provides a balanced diet for God’s people.
The preacher never has to stress over what to preach next. When a plan is formulated it takes pressure off of the preacher. As soon as a preacher says the “amen” on a sermon, he begins to think toward the next one. The work is never done, and yet the riches of the Bible are never exhausted.
In my 18 years at Cross Lanes, I have almost preached through the entirety of the New Testament. When I complete the Gospel of Luke, which I am currently in, I will have completed the New Testament. I have also preached through twenty of the thirty-nine Old Testament books. What will I do when I finish the New Testament? Start over and do it again. I have preached various themes, doctrinal sermons, and seasonal messages over the years, with those messages also anchored in the Scripture.
I often say, I am not a race horse but rather a plow horse in ministry. This is true in preaching. Preachers should put in the work and be counted on, to faithfully deliver the Word of God every time they stand before the people.
Jesus said to Peter in John 21:15 “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these? He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, Feed My lambs. 16 He said to him again a second time, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me? He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, Tend My sheep. 17 He said to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me? Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, Do you love Me? And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”
The Apostle Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.