I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry (2 Tim. 4:1–5, KJV).
Many individuals downplay preaching as an archaic, outdated method of communicating the gospel. They suggest replacing it with dialogue, dramatizations, and other approaches that will compete with current social practices and trends. However, I contend that preaching is vital to keep a congregation growing and healthy.1
The Bible is replete with examples of preachers and the injunction to preach. In the Old Testament, God called upon prophets to warn “the people” and give them His messages. Isaiah’s counsel to the bearer of God’s message is, “ ‘Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet’ ” (Isa. 58:1, RSV). Ezekiel affirms that the message should be presented “whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear” (Ezek. 2:5, KJV). He further describes the preacher’s solemn responsibility in Ezekiel 3:17–19.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus emphasized the significance of preaching by word and action. The synoptic Gospels describe Him as constantly engaged in preaching. He said of Himself: “ ‘THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON mE (the Messiah) BECAUSE HE HAS ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOOD NEWS’ ” (Luke 4:18, AMP). He also spoke of the importance of preaching as a precursor to His second coming: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14, KJV).
Preaching the good news was prominent in the ministry of the apostles. It was apparent at Pentecost and integral in the establishment of the early church. Paul, arguably the most dominant of all the apostles in the New Testament, also emphasized the importance of preaching. He constantly preached during his travels as he raised and nurtured churches.
In 2 Timothy 4:1–5, Paul shared with his protégé, Timothy, one of the most critical pastoral injunctions concerning preaching. He called upon Timothy to do what I classify as ‘passionate pastoral preaching.’ To be sure, we should not identify it as loud, emotional, or unrestrained. It is not about suave vocal inflections, fad expressions, or choreographed gestures. Instead, Paul was counseling preachers both then and today to model the greatest example in history—Jesus Christ. Author Ellen G. White states, “The lessons of Christ should be carefully studied, and the subjects, manner, and form of discourses should be modeled after the divine Pattern. Oratorical display, flashy rhetoric, and fine gestures do not constitute a fine discourse. . . . He did not sermonize as men do today. Instead, in intensely earnest tones, He assured them of the truths of the life to come, of the way of salvation.”2
We can view passionate pastoral preaching, such as Jesus demonstrated and Paul admonished Timothy to, as revolving around some important p’s and q’s.
P’s and q’s of passionate pastoral preaching
Purpose. The apostle Paul is so concerned about the church that he braces his counsel with the disturbing observation that people will resist sound doctrine. Therefore, he implores Timothy to preach the Word with purpose. The purpose for which Jesus preached was to announce the arrival of the kingdom and offer its divine citizenship to believers, something evident in His every discourse.
Paul declares that we need to “preach the word.” We can understand the Word (logos) as the divine expression in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14) or the divine expression of God’s will through the Scriptures (Heb. 4:12; 1 Thess. 2:13). The apostle is very clear about the parameters of our preaching. He consistently spoke about what he was called to preach: “the boundless riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8, NIV); “Him” (Gal. 1:16, NKJV); “the gospel” (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:17; Col. 1:23); “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23); and “the mystery of Christ” (Col. 4:3). It is clear then that the Word he speaks of is the “good news of salvation.”
The example of Jesus commissions us to preach “this gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 24:14, KJV). Therefore, as Seventh-day Adventist preachers, God calls upon us to proclaim with clarity the unique understanding of biblical prophecy focusing on Jesus. It is incumbent upon the preacher to share that purpose, announce with urgency the imminence of Christ’s second coming, and declare the inescapable reality that we are living in the judgment hour.
Preparation. The passage we began with appropriately shows that Timothy must be “ready in season and out of season.” The word epistēthi indicates that he must always be prepared. Preaching is not an occasion but a process. And preaching with passion in this postmodern society demands diligent discipline in preparation.
Personality. One definition of preaching is communicating through personality. And Paul’s admonition was that Timothy’s preaching needed to convince, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and teaching. In a real sense, he was suggesting that a preacher must not be arrogant and overbearing. People are often turned off not because of the piercing truth but because of the bombastic condescension seen in the preacher. Therefore, at times, it is not the sermon that needs modifying but the attitude or personality of the preacher that requires adjusting.
Prayer. It may seem strange to mention that prayer is essential for the preparation and presentation of the Word, but it must never be overlooked. Many individuals are talented speakers and orators who are able, simply on those abilities, to make powerful presentations. However, those who desire to communicate the message from God must continuously listen to what God is saying. I read this statement from Pastor Jonas Arrais some time ago, and it bears noting: “The pastor who depends on his own strength, who preaches and serves from his own resources, will soon find himself weak, discouraged, and ready to quit. No one has the wisdom for all of life’s decisions. No one has the patience to overcome all the problems encountered. No one has the time for all the tasks, energy for all the meetings, inspiration for all the messages, and enough compassion for all the people who need him. Being a pastor doesn’t change these truths. Pray or quit. That is the choice.”3
Qualification. When Paul admonishes Timothy to preach the Word, he is summoning him to stand with holy boldness and declare the Word of God. However, to do so, the preacher must have credibility. The listener has the right to question the authority from which the preacher speaks. People are more comfortable listening when they feel the preacher is credible. Credibility is affected by three things: (1) Ability—Can they trust your skills? (2) Reliability—Do they have confidence through previous experience with you? (3) Spirituality—Do they see you as a spiritual person?
Quality. The preacher is responsible for being disciplined in preparing messages of the highest quality. The Seventh-day Adventist preacher cannot assume the posture of doctrinal superiority, believing that prophetic insights and eschatological understanding alone will force people to listen. The obstacles faced, plus the fact that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12, KJV), must compel the preacher to seek the Lord’s strength and wisdom to come forth with messages of the highest quality.
In a busy ministry, it can be challenging to maintain consistent quality. But we must challenge ourselves by learning new methods and exploring new themes. Personal development calls for discipline. Resist the temptation to stay within your comfort zone.
Question. To capture the attention of distracted and self-absorbed listeners, the passionate preacher must raise questions of eternal significance. Therefore, both in preparation and presentation, asking questions is necessary. Raise questions that the listener may be asking, that will confront your hearers, that elicit answers for felt needs. Asking questions can be vital in creating challenges and thoughts in the minds of your congregants.
The primary or starting exegetical questions are Why? What? When? Who? How? Nevertheless, the preacher must dig even deeper by asking such questions as Why now? Why here? What next? The type of questions mined from the text or asked by the preacher will determine whether the congregation will decide to change their hearts and lives.
Targeting the heart
Ellen G. White emphasizes the sacred responsibility that rests upon every minister of the Word: “A man [or woman] may preach in a spirited manner and please the ear, but convey no new idea or real intelligence to the mind. The impressions received through such preaching last no longer than while the speaker’s voice is heard. When search is made for the fruit of such labor, there is little to be found.”4
Since preachers are often described as men and women who minister between the living and the dead, great is their responsibility to transform lives and secure destinies while probation lingers. Therefore, the heart is the preacher’s target for every moment of the sermonic period.
Passionate pastoral preaching that is Spirit-empowered is an essential pathway to the heart. By following the p’s and q’s of purpose, preparation, personality, prayer, qualification, quality, and question, we may discover the gateway to a higher level of preaching, opening the pathway to our listeners’ hearts.
- A version of this article first appeared at https://seccministerial.org/blog.
- Ellen G. White, The Voice in Speech and Song: As Outlined in the Writings of Ellen G. White (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1988), 111.
- Jonas Arrais, Wanted, a Good Pastor: The Characteristics, Skills, and Attitudes Every Effective Church Leader Needs (Silver Spring, MD: General Conference Ministerial Association, 2011), 43.
- Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn, 1948), 447.