What You’ll Never Hear About Preaching in Seminary

Editor’s Note: This article has been adapted from Mark Howell’s second lecture at the 2012 Northcutt Lectures on Preaching at Southwestern Seminary. Audio of the 2012 Northcutt Lectures on Preaching, given by Mark Howell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, Fla., can be accessed at www.swbts.edu/mediaresources under “Lecture Series.”

I’m a pastor who is constantly learning how to do it better. In this blog post, I’d like to share a little of what I’ve learned along the way. But first, I want to provide a caveat to my title. The caveat is that you have heard most of what you’ll read below, but the real issue is have you paid attention to what you’ve heard? So, in a sense, what I’ve listed below are some reminders for ministry to encourage you to keep pressing on toward God-honoring, Christ-exalting ministry.

1. Your ministry will not be easy: If you think your ministry will be the exception, try to name one biblical character who was greatly used by God who did not suffer. Sorry to break the news…but suffering comes with the calling (1 Peter 3: 13-17)

2. Time for study will be an ongoing challenge: Every day there will be a thousand urgent things that will compete for your attention. Do not sacrifice your sermon preparation on the altar of the urgent. Do what is most important! (1 Tim 4: 6-8)

3. God’s Word is sufficient even when we are not: Preach the text faithfully and you will be amazed at how God takes His sufficient Word and applies it to the hearts of your people. “The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s best wisdom.” (1 Cor. 1:25)

4. The rush for relevance will be a constant drain on you and your preaching: Remember that we don’t make the Bible relevant. We open the text and show our people how relevant it already is. And if it is relevant, it is most certainly sufficient to change lives. As David says, it “converts the soul.” (Psalm 19:7)

5. What you say is more important than how you say it, but how you say it has never been more important: Be a constant learner and seek to improve your delivery. The Word we share is too important not to say it well. And the first key to effective delivery is to be well-prepared.

6. Pride is an ever present reality for the preacher: You will battle pride throughout the course of your ministry. Remember that you are never as great of a preacher or as poor of a preacher as others say you are. And to be honest, it does not matter what others think about you or even what you think about yourself; what matters most is what God knows about you. (Heb. 4:13)

7. You must concentrate on the depth of your walk with God and let God take care of the breadth of your work for Him: This is so basic that it needs little explanation. Follow Paul’s example… glory in the Lord and let the Lord expand your ministry. (2 Cor. 10:12-18)

8. When things can go wrong, they will go wrong…be faithful anyway: Distractions are a part of life (and ministry too). Be disciplined and fulfill your ministry. Be the loyal soldier, the disciplined athlete and the hardworking farmer. (2 Tim. 2: 3-6)

9. People are not your enemy: Our battle is not against “flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6: 12). Not every one of your church members is out to get you. If they don’t follow you, perhaps it is because they simply don’t understand. Of course, this is not always the case, but you must avoid the “them” against “me” mentality. You are not the victim.

10. Your family must be a priority: If you lose your family you will lose your ministry (1 Tim. 3: 4-5). Spend time with your kids and your spouse. Guard against allowing “church duties” to take you away from your dad and husband duties. Spend quality time with those who will grieve the most when you die.