This article is part of the Dear Pastor series.
Greetings in the name of Christ from a couple of colaborers in pastoral ministry. You’re likely aware that we’re currently experiencing a crisis in our work. In most evangelical circles, anywhere from ten to thirty percent of local churches don’t have pastors and can’t find them. In comparison to years gone by, fewer men today are responding to God’s call to pastoral ministry, and fewer students are going to Bible colleges and seminaries to be trained for that work. The biggest tragedy of this crisis is that every week fewer people are sitting under the solid exposition of God’s supernatural, life-changing word! That makes what you do in Christ’s kingdom paramount! So thank you for your faithfulness to this task!
As you shepherd God’s people every week through the exposition of his word, we wanted to personally express our gratitude for your ministry and “stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Pet. 1:13) as to why your work is so vital for the cause of Christ. Here are just a few of the reasons we’re thankful to God for your leadership of his people through consistent and diligent Bible exposition.
Expositional leadership is the pastor’s primary calling.
Among all the words that describe pastoral ministry, one at least near the top of the list is the word busy. It seems that at the end of every day we find ourselves moving unfinished tasks to tomorrow’s to-do list. There are always more visits to make, counsel to give, meetings to attend, emails to answer, blogs to write, plans to develop, and—oh yes—sermons to prepare than it seems we have hours in the week. This reality means that prioritization and delegation have to be among the disciplines a pastor develops. We must prioritize the things that are most important, and we must delegate as much as we can in order to help us maintain our highest priorities. While preaching is not the only thing you do as a pastor, it must be the first thing. Speaking of the work of preaching, Paul exhorted Timothy to “not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Tim. 4:14). Preaching God’s word is the primary task for which you’ve been set apart. And the fact that pastoral preaching should be characterized by good exposition is no secret. Paul previously said to the young pastor, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13). Basically, he said for Timothy to read the Scripture, explain it, and compel people to obey it. That’s a pretty good description of exposition, and it must be the primary work that we do in shepherding our people. Thank you for making this critical work your top priority!
Expositional leadership is the greatest platform for shepherding God’s people.
Pastors today have numerous avenues through which to speak into the lives of their people and influence them for good. We communicate through discipleship relationships, text and email blasts, social media posts, blogs, newsletters, personal phone calls and visits, and numerous other means. But there’s no more potent medium during a given week through which you have a greater opportunity to speak into the lives of your people than your weekly sermon. The worship gathering is the primary venue where most of your people are gathered at the same time. Additionally, the exposition of God’s word through the sermon in those gatherings is the time when the community of faith gets to actually hear the voice of God as you proclaim what he's saying through his inspired word. And God’s people have the opportunity to experience that through the face-to-face encounter with God’s mouthpiece, a shepherd who loves them and is tasked with feeding them and protecting them. That combination makes the preaching platform the most influential time that you have to lead your people every week. We thank God for his grace that’s enabling you to leverage this incredible opportunity!
Expositional leadership is the most potent means of shaping God’s people into Christ’s image.
Your responsibility, pastor, is not simply to be a leader of your people, but to lead them somewhere. And that somewhere is recreation into Christ’s image. This transformation is the agenda of the Bible. It begins in Genesis 1 with God’s creation of heaven and earth and his creation of mankind into his image. It ends in Revelation 21–22 with his recreation of heaven and earth and his recreation of mankind into his image. This recreation was necessary because sin perverted what God originally intended. And everything in between those bookends of the Bible is the story of God recreating us into what he originally purposed through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, God has ordained his word to be the primary agent the Holy Spirit uses to bring that recreation about. When people hear and receive God’s voice, he speaks new life—creation—into them. So every time you expound his word with integrity and in the power of his Spirit, and every time your people hear it and embrace it, that recreative work is happening. Thank you for leading God’s people to the primary end he’s ordained for them (Rom. 8:29–30)!
Through your consistent, faithful, skillful, and Spirit-dependent exposition of Scripture, you are seizing the opportunity to lead your people in a way that no other platform or venue provides.
Expositional leadership ensures that God’s agenda sets the church’s agenda.
It’s not uncommon today for churches to develop mission statements as well as vision statements and sets of core values by which they intend to operate. And there’s really nothing wrong with doing so, as long as our mission, vision, and values are consistent with and subservient to the mission, vision, and values that Jesus established for his people in his word. After all, the mission of every church is not a secret on the pages of Scripture. Jesus said,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.—Matthew 28:18–20
Consequently, every local church mission statement ought to reflect and be driven by this Great Commission that our Lord gave to us. And since this mission is unfolded in the entirety of holy Scripture, faithful Bible exposition is the most dependable way for you to make sure that your church’s agenda is dictated by the agenda of the Bible. Week by week, as your people hear you interpret and expound the text of Scripture and compel them to obey it, you’re reinforcing the agenda by which all of your programs and ministries are driven. And the consistency of that mission throughout the Bible provides potent opportunities for you to make application for your people to the various ministry programs and efforts on your church calendar. We celebrate that God’s word and his mission are ordering your congregation’s steps!
Expositional leadership postures God’s people to worship him.
Pastor, you are your church’s primary worship leader. While all of us are thankful to God for the gifted men and women who lead us in musical worship, the church has no greater act of worship than hearing God speak and responding to him in praise and obedience. That means the preaching event is an act of worship that pastors are responsible for leading. In one sense, many worship services are designed backwards. Most of the singing, offerings, prayer, and other acts of worship are in the first part of the service, and then God reveals himself when the pastor preaches. Periodically, it might make more sense to reverse that order by allowing God to speak first through the sermon, followed by the congregation’s response through song, giving, prayer, and other expressions. Regardless of the order, however, your pastoral exposition of Scripture is an essential act of worship leadership. Thank you for faithfully leading God’s people to glorify him through his word!
Pastor, the work of shepherding God’s people naturally involves and requires good leadership. There’s no more important place for that to happen than in your preaching ministry every week. Through your consistent, faithful, skillful, and Spirit-dependent exposition of Scripture, you are seizing the opportunity to lead your people in a way that no other platform or venue provides. And you’re able to do it with great confidence and joy, knowing that God has ordained the work of preaching to be the pastor’s primary means of leading his people. May God grant you great favor as you keep your hand to the plow!
In Christ’s Name,
R. Scott Pace and Jim Shaddix
R. Scott Pace and and Jim Shaddix are coauthors of Expositional Leadership: Shepherding God's People from the Pulpit.
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