Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; “but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7, NKJV).
Pastoral marching orders, clear as good, Italian crystal.
I wonder how many pastors in America would state their priorities as prayer and the ministry of the Word. I can’t say I achieve these priorities all the time, but I lean into them. I strive for them. I do my best to prioritize time for prayer and study in the Word.
Believe me, there are a thousand alternatives that clamor for attention. I know, I’m easily distrac— oooh… something shiny…
Scripture supports these priorities for those in a pastoral position:
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. (1 Timothy 5:17, NKJV).
Hey, do you support your pastor’s study time in the word and doctrine? Do you encourage your pastor to be a person of the Book? Do you encourage your pastor to shut the door and meet with God in prayer and Scripture? And do you want a pastor who labors in the Word and DOCTRINE?
Because you can’t have it all. There are no omni-competent Superpastors, though, I know, you’re telling me I come close. Even the apostles had to choose… ‘It is not desirable that we LEAVE the Word of God…” See that? In order to administrate the Widow’s Dinner, they’d have to LEAVE the Word of God. They couldn’t do both, and neither can today’s pastors.
In my seminary days, I was taught a rule of thumb for preaching, and you won’t believe it, but here is yesterday’s standard:
ONE HOUR IN THE STUDY FOR EVERY MINUTE IN THE PULPIT.
Think about that. Generations of preachers abided by that rule of thumb… So a 40 minute sermon took, uhhhh, 40 HOURS of study time. No kidding. I told you you wouldn’t believe it! But that’s what it takes to produce the life-nourishing messages of days gone by.
No, I don’t spend that much time (you might say, “It shows.” but that would be mean). But I strive to give my best and most time to studying God’s Word, because I want to lay out a feast for you and pray for you and be one of those guys who “labors in the Word and doctrine!” I just wonder if most churches consider that guy worthy of DOUBLE HONOR… My hunch is most churches resent that guy for not being a “people person” and not doing the works of ministry.
The number one way I LOVE YOU IS BY FEEDING YOU GOD’S WORD. That’s mainly how I express my love for the Body of Christ. It’s my love language. It’s a privilege and I’m grateful. It’s not my only way, because I am deeply involved in people and life too. But, what good am I as a pastor if I can’t bring the DEEP THINGS OF GOD’S WORD, and the WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD, and the SOLID FOOD OF SCRIPTURE to bear on the deep issues of real-world life.
Without Scriptural depth, I might as well be Oprah.
I think my pastoral marching orders are clear. Priority One: devote myself continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Simple.
I’m blessed to have a church that wants me to keep first things first. I’m not saying it’s ALL study time… Because I spend large amounts of time doing other things too… but I’m just writing this, at 2:47 a.m., to ask you to support your pastor, whatever your church, when your pastor shuts the door, and devotes large chunks of time to prayer and the ministry of the Word. To make that time available to God, he/she has to make it unavailable to you. Are you okay with that? Are you willing to receive ministry from the BODY?
One hour in the study for every minute in the pulpit… wow! Talk about discipline for the pastor and solid food for the people of God!
This focus on prayer and the Word is the desperate need of the church today. We need revival, and God blesses his Word.
- If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. (1 Timothy 4:6, NKJV).
- Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:16, NKJV).
- Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2, NKJV).
Here are my latest sermons. I hope you find them well-studied road maps for the terrain of your real life journey.
P.S… sorry for the long blog break, I was swamped for a while!