Pastor Tim Keller has a blog post he put up recently called Preacher – onlys aren’t good preachers. He makes some really good points that I too have been thinking about with regard to the the pastoral ministry and church life and that is this: preaching isn’t everything.
In other words, there is more to the pastoral ministry and church life in general than preaching, even the oft praised expository preaching. Much more. Now this isn’t to put down preaching or to say that there isn’t a need for good preaching but if that is all you do in the church then you are only fulfilling a very small part of your pastoral calling and vocation, if not neglecting it altogether. In fact, you are overdoing it.
What are the other aspects of the pastoral ministry? Keller writes in part:
I have often seen many men spend a great amount of time on preparing and preaching lengthy, dense, expository messages, while giving far less time and energy to the learning of leadership and pastoral nurture. It takes lots of experience and effort to help a body of people make a unified decision, or to regularly raise up new lay leaders, or to motivate and engage your people in evangelism, or to think strategically about the stewardship of your people’s spiritual gifts, or even to discern what they are. It takes lots of experience and effort to know how to help a sufferer without being either too passive or too directive, or to know when to confront a doubter and when to just listen patiently. Pastors in many of our Reformed churches do not seem to be as energized to learn to be great leaders and shepherds, but rather have more of an eye to being great teachers and preachers.
I am sorry to have to say this and sorry to hurt some pastors ears but again, there is more to the pastoral ministry and church life than just the preaching – there is the ministering of the ordinances, there is pastoral care and nurture, shepherding, leadership issues, and so on and on and on. And in the end what does all this do? Make you a better preacher. Why? Because you’ve been interacting with people, dealing with daily life issues and problems and successes and so on.
I was surprised to see he gets in about 15 hours of sermon prep time – and advised that newer or younger pastors only get in about 6 – 8 hours. I remember once hearing John MacArthur telling a church board he was interviewing with that he was essentially demanding 30 hours for sermon work – to me, when I heard this, I thought that was massive overkill. I fall in the 6-8 hour range, I just don’t have a lot of time for sermon prep – though I try to follow certain methodologies to be a s effective as I can be in the time I have (ie: diagramming, word studies, some background research and the like). But 30 hours? Man that is just too much.
So, don’t over focus on the preaching prep – make sure you put in time being a pastor too! ;)
Go here for more thoughts on preaching.