It was the last day of the revival. I had just finished my ninth sermon of the meeting. I stood to give my lasting remarks. And I said what I was thinking. Usually, I am able to mind my business when I preach away from home. But since I had no intention of ever returning to that church, I took a shot at them.
Thanks for putting up with my preaching this week. And for all of your kindness and encouragement. But all the glory goes to God. Any human credit goes to the church I serve. They give me time to think, read, and pray. They provide the resources I need to study. And they only demand that I be ready to teach and preach. If I am not a good preacher, shame on me! Any church can have good preaching if they take care of their pastor and encourage him.
I had been there for a week. And the pastor didn’t have time to host me. He worked part time to make ends meet. He did funerals and hospital visits every day I was there. He had one meeting after another. I was exhausted just watching him. In the process, he was discouraged, his marriage was in trouble, and his children resentful of the ministry.
Then it happened.
One of the deacons slyly criticized his preaching in front of me, suggesting this seasoned pastor should take preaching lessons from me, who was in my early 20s. I had preached for men that I wasn’t sure could read. But their members would tell me, “I enjoyed your preaching! But you can’t touch my pastor.” That’s love. This deacon’s remark, and his fellow deacons’ agreement, was just cruel.
The pastor was a good preacher. He was just in a bad situation, at a historic church that thought too highly of itself. I had to say something. And I did.
Sometimes pastors struggle in preaching because they don’t take their pulpit work seriously. Others struggle in preaching because they struggle alone. But good preaching is a partnership between pastor and congregation, pulpit and pew, the one who preaches and the one who listens. The pastor preaches to help those in the pew. But the congregation can and should help the one in the pulpit, as well.
There was a vocal old lady in my first church. When I was preaching good, she would say, “Help us, Lord.” But when I was flunking, she would say, “Help him, Lord.” But there are better ways the pew can help the pulpit and motivate the pastor to be a better preacher. Here are seven…
Pray for your pastor. I mean, pray specifically for his preaching. Pray that he will have the time to study and will use it well. Pray the Lord will open his eyes and give him understanding (Ps. 119:18, 24). Pray that he will guard his life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16) Pray that he will rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Pray that the Lord will keep his heart and mind free from sinful distractions. Pray that God will give his power in the pulpit.
Give your pastor time to study. Members love pastors who are always available. But it is not good if he is always available. He will be more help to you if he shuts himself up to pray and study. You want a pastor who has something to say, rather than someone who has to say something. This requires times to prepare. Give it to him.
Provide for your pastor. Bi-vocational pastors are the unsung heroes of the church, who work a job to care for their families as they do the work of ministry for little or no pay. Many churches are not able to adequately compensate their pastors. But others are just stingy. Being determined to deprive the preacher, they rob themselves. Do you best to care for the needs of your pastor and his family.
Be marked present. A blind and deaf Christian was asked why he attended church, since he could not see or hear the service. He answered, “I just want people to know which side I’m on. Your regular church attendance is a statement to the world. It is an act of obedience that builds up other believers (Heb. 10:24-25). And it is a great encouragement to your pastor. You challenge him to prepare a better meal if you consistently show up with a good attitude and a big appetite.
Listen to the sermon. Just because you are in the service does not mean you hear the sermon. And the pastor knows it. He stands on a raised platform in a room with people sitting in front of him. And he sees what’s happening in front of him. When you spend the sermon talking, walking, texting, or sleeping, it’s distracting and discouraging. But nothing makes a man want to preach harder than to have people actually listening, sitting up, following along, and taking notes. An occasional “Amen” doesn’t hurt either.
Encourage your pastor. Preaching can be discouraging work. If I stopped writing this article and didn’t get back to it for a week, I could pick up right where I left off. Preaching doesn’t work that way. We try to reach out people on Sunday mornings. The world tries to reach them all the rest of the week. The gravitational pull is against the things of God. And the pastor often feels he is not making a difference. Encourage him. Don’t stroke his ego. But give him specific ways you are learning and growing.
Be a doer of the word. A church is not committed to the word, just because the pulpit preaches the truth. A church is committed to the world when biblical preaching together shapes its life. To hear the word without doing what it says is self-deception (James 1:22-25). Members often leave the service and rate the pastor’s sermon. But the real issue is what you do with what you hear. Be eager hear the word. But don’t stop there. Live it out by Christ’s power and for God’s glory!
What do you think? What would add to this list? How do you think the pew can better supper the pulpit?