Him We Proclaim: Christ as the Subject, End, and Power of Preaching

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that preaching is the primary activity of the church because God never changes and man’s need never changes. 

“…the moment you consider man’s real need, and also the nature of salvation announced and proclaimed in the Scriptures, you are driven to the conclusion that the primary task of the Church is to preach and proclaim this, to show’s man’s real need, and to show the only remedy, the only cure for it.” (Preaching and Preachers, pg. 26)

For Lloyd-Jones, the preaching of the gospel is not one task amidst a host of equal priorities, but the primary activity of the church. If this is so, we need to have a robust theology of Christian preaching. In my mind there is no better starting point to that end than Colossians 1:28-29. There we learn that Christ is the principal subject, end, and power for preaching.

28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Col 1:28–29)

The antecedent of “him” is Christ in 1:27,  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Jesus Christ is the principal subject of all Christian proclamation.

The words “Him we proclaim” remind us that ministry is not about the minister. The minister is not the point of ministry and churches do not exist to make the minister’s name great. Gospel ministry is about the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Like the focus on a camera these words bring the priority of ministry into clear view. That priority is summarized in the brief phrase “Him we proclaim.” 

Along with a principal subject, preaching also has a primary purpose, “that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” The maturity or perfection that Paul is speaking of here is the end of the Christian life, that final day when the the church is presented to Christ in glory. If this is the purpose, we can say that preaching does not just aim for the conversion of sinners, but the perseverance of the saints. 

When this becomes our aim, we avoid the error of bringing the church into conformity to ourselves. John Calvin helpfully reminds us, ”If ministers wish to do any good, let them labour to form Christ, not to form themselves, in their hearers.”

The motivation to adopt this end for preaching is found in Colossians 1:22,. Paul tells us that Christ, “…reconciled (us) in his body of flesh by his death, in order that he might present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” When pastors prayerfully aim to present the saints mature in Christ they are aligned with Christ’s own purposes for the church. 

Christ is the end of preaching.

If this type of preaching is to be done faithfully, it must be done with necessary discipline and in the appropriate power. “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he works powerfully within me.”

There is a story about the famous evangelist D.L. Moody, who on his first Sunday as pastor in Chicago recounts visiting Charles Haddon Spurgeon in London. Here is a summary of Moody’s impression of Spurgeon.  

“What impressed him most was not the praise, though he thought he had never heard such grand congregational singing; it was not Mr. Spurgeon’s exposition, fine though it was, nor even his sermon; it was his prayer. He seemed to have such access to God that he could bring down the power from heaven; that was the great secret of his influence and his success.”1

I think the Pauline prayers throughout his letters support the idea that the power of God is accessed through prayer. There is not an ounce of power in and of ourselves that can accomplish preaching’s great end, but we can trust that those who depend upon God in prayer will be empowered by God in Christ. If we are going to be faithful preachers of Christ for the maturation of the church, then we must both toil and labor while depending upon the power of Christ.

Christ is the power of preaching 

Fellow pastors, we will preach many sermons and in all of them it must be Him that we proclaim. Those sermons will be preached from a variety of biblical texts and from them all it must be Him that we proclaim. We will preach those sermons to a number of people (some of us more than others) and to each one it must be Him that we proclaim. As we do, may we depend on the power of God working in and through us.

My Prayer for Preaching

 I’ve often heard it said that Spurgeon ascended to preach repeating the words, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, I believe in the Holy Ghost, I believe in the Holy Ghost.” It was his prayer for power and an expression of dependance on God for the task of preaching.  Andy Davis, one of my favorite expositors today, has said that he repeats Jesus’ words in John 21 “Feed my sheep, feed my sheep, feed my sheep.”1

These habits are good, because they redirect the preacher to the source of his power and the purpose of his preaching. While I don’t repeat the same phrase while ascending the small steps to the platform at Hermon Baptist Church, I have found myself repeating the same prayer before each sermon: exalt your name, edify your church, evangelize the sinner. This prayer captures what I aim to accomplish in every sermon. 

  1. Exalt your name

Preaching is not merely the communication of information. Preaching is the exaltation God’s glory in Jesus Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture. I long for my people to behold this glory and adore the person in whom it is revealed (John 1:14). In the New Testament we learn that Jesus Christ has inherited the name that is above all names (Phil. 2:9; Heb. 1:4). Since I am convinced this is the divine name, praying for the exaltation of God’s name is to pray for the exaltation of God’s glory in Jesus Christ.  

  1. Edify your church 

When the saints gather on the Lord’s day, the Spirit works through the preaching of the Word of God to renew the saints into the image of God. To hear the Word preached is to really hear the living God address his people for the purpose of maturity and sanctification. This prayer is inspired by 1 Timothy 4:15-16 and Colossians 1:28-29.  

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching…15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Ti 4:15–16)

28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Col 1:28–29) 

  1. Evangelize the sinner 

When Paul praises God for the saints in Thessalonica he notes their reception of his gospel preaching. 

13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Th 2:13)

For any and all present who don’t know the Lord, I pray that God would evangelize the sinner. First, this is a prayer for gospel clarity. I want every sermon to be the proclamation of God’s work in the gospel and a call to repentance and faith. Second it is a prayer for the unbeliever to receive the Word for what it really is—the Word of God. 

Since these are my aims and I am insufficient to execute them by my own power, I will continue to pray: exalt your name, edify your church, evangelize the sinner. 

A School in Slow Spirituality

In the midst of washing bottles for a four month old, eagerness to change the laundry, and the maneuvering around a loaded sink came the words, “Want daddy, want daddy, want daddy.” These are the words Isaac, my seven year old son with both Down syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome uses to make requests of me. “Want daddy” is Isaac language for, “Daddy, I want x.” As usual, I asked what he wanted. Also as usual, Isaac repeated “want Daddy” instead of stating his request. After the fourth repetition, my voice began to raise and say shaper, “No, Isaac, what…do…you…want.” He replied, “Water.”

Isaac often moves at this own pace. He is often slow to respond, slow to obey, and slow to act. As an average Western American, I value the productive use of time. What frustrated me about our conversation was that Isaac seemed to be taking up the valuable time during his brother’s nap. My son only wanted water. I only wanted to be left to work. In a moment, the priority of productivity over the being present with my son became clear.

This became all the more evident that same evening when I sat down to read Kelly Kapic’s outstanding new book You’re Only Human. In a chapter challenging our obsession with efficiency Kapic borrows from theologian John Swinton and says, “It is not difficult to see how easily we have imposed a scale of “being efficient” onto our perception of “being human,” consequently valuing people in terms of productivity and speed.”

This correct observation pierced my heart, because I also have raised concerns about how we might dehumanize fellow image bearers in our articulation of the imago Dei. It is not hard to understand how daily parenting problems can discourage, but what if lamenting these challenges leads me to miss what Isaac is teaching me?

Leaning again on Swinton, Kapic writes, “Affirming finitude as part of the creaturely domain, Swinton challenges us to realize that “love has a speed” and we should discover the beauty of “slow and gentle disciples” who are easily missed and ignored but are actually vital to the kingdom of God. We sense that we need to slow down and listen to Christ, to see him in the vulnerable and needy, and to confess our own neediness in the process.”

These lessons not only offer edification for the individual Christian, but for the corporate life of the church. This is the insight Jason Whitt brings out by suggesting the church may learn a lot by including people with disabilities in worship.

“They remind the church that God has given the church all the time it needs, whether that means allowing the person who does not speak well or quickly to read Scripture or pray; walking slowly to the communion table with one whose gait is slow; or creating spaces that are accessible to everyone, not just who are able to rush from task to task. The fear is that including people wit disabilities into the life of the church will slow members down. This slowing down, however, may help speed up the moral formation of the church.”

Repentance may very well begin with acknowledging that God has given Isaac as a gift not so much for how I might help him, but how he might help me slow down, listen to Christ, and confess my own neediness. Perhaps we’re all in too much of a hurry and as we rush from task to task our spiritual formation is stunted. Repentance may very well result in enrolling in a school of slow spirituality.

2021: Links for Looking Back

The majority of my time is dedicated to serving my wife, children, and church family. Preaching, shepherding, and leading the saints of Hermon Baptist is the true and important work of my life. I’m grateful to have finished preaching 1 Peter at the turn of this year and preached through all of Galatians. I also preached a number shorter, thematic series: Salvation Stories (conversion stories of Saul, Lydia, Ethiopian Eunuch, and the Philippian Jailer), God’s Good Design (Gender, Sexuality, Marriage, Singleness, and Friendship), and The Christ of Christmas (Eternal Son, Incarnate Son, Crucified Son, and Resurrected/Ascended Son).

Outside of my primary responsibilities, I was blessed to have some preaching and writing opportunities.

Preaching: Revival at First Baptist Church, Metropolis.

Message 1: Standing in the Strength of Christ

Message 2: The Armor of God, Part 1

Message 3: The Armor of God, Part 2

Message 4: Prayer for Warfare

Writing

I’m grateful to TGC for publishing this brief piece on ministering to elderly saints, 4 Ways Young Pastors Can Love Elderly Saints.

The Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership was gracious enough to publish some thoughts about Pastoral Ministry and Persons with Disabilities.

I trust the Spirit has used these labors to exalt God’s glory in Christ and edify Christ’s church.

Faithful Shepherd Friday: Jordon Willard

This is part of a series called Faithful Shepherd Friday, which attempts to learn from faithful shepherds of Christ’s church laboring in obscurity.

Today’s faithful shepherd is Jordon Willard. I had the pleasure of getting connected to Jordon when I was a student at SEBTS. I have been continually encouraged by his love for Christ, love for the church, and faithful presence everywhere he has ministered. Please be sure to pray for Jordon and his family!

Where do you serve as pastor and how long have you been there?

I have been pastoring in NC for almost ten years. Previously, I served as Senior Pastor of two SBC churches in Eastern NC. Currently, I am the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Weddington. I arrived at FBCW in February, 2021.

How do you go about sermon preparation?

My sermon preparation process can be seen at two levels: macro and micro. At the macro level, I typically go on a retreat to do sermon planning once a year, usually in late October or early November. I pray over and meditate on what my church needs in their spiritual diet for the coming year. There are times during the year when I have had to change course from my plan, but for the most part I try to stick to my preaching calendar. When planning, I try to map out each sermon text and discover and develop three things: the central idea of the text, the proposition for the sermon, and the purpose of the sermon.[1] Then, I try to develop a homiletical outline that considers the text’s substance, structure, and spirit.[2]

I am not always able to accomplish these things in the initial sermon planning retreat, but this is what I aim for. I mainly preach expositionally through books of the Bible, but sometimes I will preach standalone series which consist of sermons made up of one passage that, together with the other passages in the series, addresses a certain topic.

The micro level occurs when I come to each individual text during the year. When I approach each text, I try to prayerfully and carefully work with the original languages of the text first, then engage with the English translation of the text through reading it silently and aloud as well as writing and typing it out several times. When I am preaching through a book of the Bible, I try to read that book over and over as many times as possible during my devotional time to keep the individual sermon within the larger context of the book.

After engaging with the text and either confirming my work done during the macro level (on the retreat at the previous yearend) or making changes, I consult commentaries. I like to work first mostly with technical commentaries which engage with the original languages and then branch out to more pastoral commentaries. Once I have a grasp on the text’s meaning within its immediate context of the book, the broader context of its placement in the canon, and the comprehensive context of the metanarrative of Scripture, I move forward to prayerfully considering how to apply the text to my congregation. The last pieces of sermon preparation usually consist of crafting a good introduction, summary, and invitation, as well as illustrations for interpretation and application.

My sermon preparation process may look different from week to week depending on my familiarity with the passage. But one thing remains each week: I am committed to biblical exposition which makes the meaning of a particular passage the main point of each sermon for the glory of God and the equipping of the saints for ministry, maturity, and multiplication.

What book has impacted your preaching or pastoral ministry? Why do you think it is important for pastors to read this particular book?

There are so many to name! I wish I could give twenty recommendations. But I’ll give two: one for preaching and the other for pastoral ministry. For preaching, Jonathan Griffiths’ Preaching in the New Testament: An Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Study[3] from the New Studies in Biblical Theology series has been formative for me. I believe all pastors should read this work because of its thorough exegesis of key NT texts that deal with preaching the Word. For pastoral ministry, John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry.[4] I read this book a few years before I became a pastor. It both challenged me and resonated with me and the call God had placed on my life to be a pastor. Every pastor should read it to be challenged and shaped by what the Scriptures have to say about our calling to shepherd.

What figure from church history has been a source encouragement for pastoral ministry?

Charles Spurgeon has been a constant source of encouragement for me in pastoral ministry. Not only his faithfulness to preach the Word, but his unique struggles in ministry have been particularly helpful for me. Spurgeon, though considered by many a towering giant among Gospel preachers, struggled frequently with depression in his ministry and was very vocal about it. If a pastor has been shepherding for a couple years, he knows both the highs and lows of ministry. Knowing that someone like Spurgeon also experienced the lows has greatly blessed me.

If you were speaking to someone new to pastoral ministry, what encouragement would you give?

In this particular season of my life and ministry, I would give three words of encouragement: Be humble, be patient, and stay hungry.

First, be humble, because you will soon find out—as I did early on in ministry—that you don’t know everything there is to know about pastoral ministry. No matter your level of education, you have a lot to learn and a great deal of wisdom to gain. Don’t act like this is not true. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Embrace this reality with meekness. For “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Second, be patient. Study all the attributes of God in Scripture. But in these early days, give particular attention to studying God’s patience from Genesis to Revelation. Develop a biblical understanding of how patient our Lord is with both the lost and saved and apply this patience to your ministry. In an age of instant gratification, we must re-learn that God’s work in his people is a long, slow, patient work. How swift we are to quote Paul’s towering command to “preach the Word,” but slow to follow it up with the rest of his counsel: “Preach the Word … with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). In the face of our culture’s lust for instantaneity, commit yourself to leading God’s people God’s way—the way of patience—for the long-haul.

Third, stay hungry. Never settle for yesterday’s victories. In both your personal holiness and public ministry, be zealous for more Christ-likeness, faithfulness to the Word, and fulfilment of the Great Commission. Stay hungry for God and his glory.

How can we pray for you?

As I type these words, the Lord has given me a fresh start at a new church. There is so much excitement and expectancy in any new work. Pray for me and my family as we get acclimated to our church and new surroundings. And pray that the Lord would continue to sustain the flame of my devotion to Him, increase my zeal that he be glorified in our midst, and deepen my desire to faithfully shepherd FBC Weddington to greater ministry, maturity, and multiplication (Ephesians 4:11-16).


[1] Jerry Vines and J. Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017).

[2] Daniel L. Akin, D.L. Allen, and N. Matthews, Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2010).

[3] Jonathan L. Griffiths, Preaching in the New Testament: An Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Study, NSBT (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017).

[4] John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

Faithful Shepherd Friday: Seth Springs

This is part of a series called Faithful Shepherd Friday, which attempts to learn from faithful shepherds of Christ’s church laboring in obscurity.

Today’s faithful shepherd is Seth Springs. I had the privilege of meeting Seth in Louisville, KY when he served as an intern under Josh Green at FBC, Fairdale. We reconnected in seminary and I now have the great privilege of pastoring Hermon Baptist Church where Seth grew up. Get to know this dear brother and be sure to pray for him.

Where do you serve as pastor and how long have you been there?

Transformation Church in Waterford, MI. My family and I moved here from NC in 2018 to begin the work of planting. We had our official public launch on Palm Sunday, 2019.

How do you go about sermon preparation?

Whether we are preaching through a book or doing a topical series, I strive to preach each passage in a text-driven, expositional manner. I normally start going through the text devotionally on Monday and Tuesday, consult commentaries and other outside sources on Wednesday, have a full outline done on Thursday, and knock out my manuscript between Friday and Saturday morning. I also have a routine of going to bed early on Saturday nights and waking up around 4am on Sundays to spend time with the Lord and read through my manuscript one last time.

What book has impacted your preaching or pastoral ministry? Why do you think it is important for pastors to read this particular book?

As far as the Christian life and a vision for ministry goes, Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper was a game-changer for me. I want to live, worship, and minister in a way that makes much of Jesus now, and matters in eternity. As far a preaching goes, Tony Merida’s Christ-Centered Expositor was especially helpful in the area of moving from “a buckshot to a bullet.”

What figure from church history has been a source encouragement for pastoral ministry?

Adoniram Judson. I read his biography while at SEBTS and it rocked me in a way similar to when I first read Don’t Waste Your Life. Judson was a very gifted individual with many options, but he chose to spend his life in Burma, suffering for the sake of the gospel among a people he grew to love very much.

If you were speaking to someone new to pastoral ministry, what encouragement would you give?

Be real and be present. Don’t play the comparison game or try to be someone else. God knows the man He called.  Remember, ministry is worship. Be real and be present, worshipping Him and loving others as genuinely as possible.

How can we pray for you?

That we would be focused, faithful, and fruitful. While church planting can be difficult, I love where God has us and I want to keep my hands on the plow.

Faithful Shepherd Friday: Philip Crouse

This is part of a series called Faithful Shepherd Friday, which attempts to learn from faithful shepherds of Christ’s church laboring in obscurity.

Today’s faithful shepherd is Philip Crouse Jr. He resides in King, NC with his wife, Mandy, and their 4 children—Adalee, Bryce, Caris, and Everly. He is currently serving as pastor of Germanton Baptist Church in Germanton, NC. He is an adjunct professor in the Piedmont Divinity School of Carolina University. He has a PhD in Applied Theology in Preaching from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he focused on missional hermeneutics and preaching.

Where do you serve as pastor and how long have you been there?

I serve as pastor at Germanton Baptist Church, a small, rural church located in Germanton, North Carolina. I have been pastor at GBC for a little over two years, but served previously as youth pastor for 13 years.

How do you go about sermon preparation?

Let me start off by saying that I am a planner. I believe that the Holy Spirit who sometimes leads me to change my sermon at the last second for various reasons, is the same Holy Spirit who helps me to know my church and understand what books of the Bible are especially appropriate at a given time. Meaning, I plan my sermon calendar up to a year or more in advance. For example, right now, I am preaching verse-by-verse through the book of Ephesians in 2021 with small detours for Easter, Summer, and Christmas.

I preach through books of the Bible 90% of the time. So I know what passage I will be preaching the following Sunday.

My first step in sermon preparation is always praying for the Holy Spirit to illuminate the text, so that I might understand it. Next, I will read the entire context of the passage multiple times. For example, I am currently in the middle of Paul’s praise for God’s salvation found in Ephesians 1:3–14. Even if I am only preaching verses 5–6, I still read the larger context to make sure that I am keeping Paul’s entire thought in view as I hone in on a smaller thought.

After reading the passage multiple times, I try to make an outline of the passage which more often than not turns into my major points. After I have my outline, I begin filling in specific details from the passage under each main point, establishing subpoints that are especially important, and also, making note of important biblical connections that will help my people see the Bible as a unified book. For example, as I preached on adoption into God’s family from Ephesians 1:5–6, I made the important connection to Deuteronomy 7:7 where God reminds Israel that He chose them, not because they were great and righteous, but solely out of His love.

When I feel like I have a good grasp on the passage and I have filled out my outline, I turn to commentaries. I always use a mix of technical, pastoral, and devotional commentaries of the books I preach through. For Ephesians, I currently have ten different commentaries that I refer to throughout the week. What I glean from commentaries helps me know whether I was on the right track in my thinking about the passage. Pastoral and devotional commentaries are also great places to find powerful illustrations and applications that can really bring the passage to life.

At this point, I am 75% done with the sermon. As I try to wrap up my sermon, I turn my attention to specific ways my passage connects to the person and work of Jesus Christ and the mission of God. I ensure that my explanation and applications help my hearers better understand the gospel and how it applies to their life. I try to picture various people who might be listening to my sermon and how the truths of my preaching passage speak to a particular hurt, sin, or situation in their life. Because I believe the entire Bible is somehow connected to the mission of God and what God accomplished through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, I seek to help my people better understand God’s mission and their place in it.

Finally, I work on my introduction and conclusion. I think through interesting ways to grab my congregation’s attention from the opening words, and how I can wrap everything up in such a way that helps them process the sermon.

What book has impacted your preaching or pastoral ministry? Why do you think it is important for pastors to read this particular book?

The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter. No book has opened my eyes to the connection between pastoral care and preaching like The Reformed Pastor. Taking Acts 20:28 as his starting point, Baxter charges pastors to guard themselves and their flocks, recognizing they have been entrusted by God with the care of God’s treasured possession—the Church. Throughout the book, Baxter simultaneously explains what pastors should do to care for themselves and their people and how they can go about doing it to the best of their ability. Precisely because Baxter devoted himself to knowing his people through pastoral care, he came to be known as one of the greatest preachers of the Puritan era. He knew his people, knew the Word of God, and knew how to make disciples through preaching and pastoral care.

What figure from church history has been a source encouragement for pastoral ministry?

This might be cheating, but Richard Baxter. Here’s why. We live in a day where some pastors spend their entire week studying and preparing for their sermons, delegating other matters of pastoral care to other pastors or deacons. But Richard Baxter recognized early on the importance of preaching and pastoral care to the task of shepherding God’s church. His sermons and books have encouraged me that God’s people will grow spiritually if pastors will boldly, faithfully preach the Word of God and pour themselves out as servants to care for their people. His model of pastoral ministry has greatly encouraged me.

If you were speaking to someone new to pastoral ministry, what encouragement would you give?

I would offer two encouragements. First, commit to knowing your people. Brian Croft has said that it might take a new pastor five years to earn the trust of the people so that they see them as a pastor and not just a preacher. But it’s worth it and necessary. Call them, write them, visit them, and spend time doing ordinary things with them. Knowing our people is essential for preaching and pastoral care. Is it hard and frustrating work at times? Absolutely. But it is the call of the shepherd to know his flock and use that knowledge to best serve them and lead them to Christlikeness.

            Second, don’t play the comparison game. Social media, and even conversations with other pastors can make our efforts and ministries seem small and inconsequential compared to others. Comparing ourselves to other pastors and our churches to other churches will only lead to discouragement, the loss of joy, and even worse, pride. Thank God every day for the ministry He has entrusted into your care. Serve faithfully with the gifts God has given you in the ministry context He has planted you. And never forget Paul’s words, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

How can we pray for you?

Pray that I can lead GBC out of our current evangelism rut. For decades, GBC has operated under an events-based evangelism and discipleship model; plan a big event, and pat ourselves on the back when lots of people come, even if no one leaves connected to our church. Pray that God might use me to awaken our hearts to see the importance of making disciples, and the willingness to change.

Faithful Shepherd Friday: Josh Clink

This is part of a series called Faithful Shepherd Friday, which attempts to learn from faithful shepherds of Christ’s church laboring in obscurity.

This week’s faithful shepherd is Josh Clink. I had the pleasure of being at SEBTS with Josh. I was also blessed to be in the same local church small group were the Lord cultivated an edifying friendship between us. Enjoy getting to know Josh and please make sure to read his prayer requests.

Where do you serve as pastor and how long have you been there?

I serve at FBC Afton in Afton, NY. It is a small village of 700 in the heart of a larger rural community of 3,000 in upstate NY. I have been here since November 2016, so about 4.5 years.

How do you go about sermon preparation?

My goal is to always remain a week ahead. Sunday afternoon I begin reading and highlighting the passage for the Sunday after next in multiple translations. I try to protect Monday as a day to research and write the sermon for the passage I began reading the previous Sunday. I use the Passage Exegesis Workflow on Logos for my sermon prep on Monday. It is an 11-step process that explores context, literature type, people, events, key words, and cross-references. Tuesday-Thursday I turn my attention to the sermon for the upcoming Sunday, which I would have finished the previous Monday. I seek to commit the sermon to memory and make minor adjustments in preparation for Sunday. I must include a disclaimer. This is a self-imposed goal and I do not always accomplish it, but it is the mark I set for myself.

What book has impacted your preaching or pastoral ministry? Why do you think it is important for pastors to read this particular book?

The two books I read when I first began preaching were, He is Not Silent by Albert Mohler and Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson. I did not know how to prepare or how to preach, but both books gave me a framework for sermon preparation and delivery.

Pastoral ministry is a little harder to narrow down, so I will mention a few. 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever, Revitalize by Andy Davis, and Gospel Eldership by Robert Thune. Another one I will highlight is Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand (IRH) by Paul David Tripp. I believe every pastor should read Tripp’s book and keep it on hand as a resource. My background is in biblical counseling and I do not think pastors are adequately prepared for the need of biblical counseling in local churches. There are a multitude of resources for pastors, but IRH gives an overarching summary for how pastors can do biblical counseling and can equip the church to offer biblical counseling.

What figure from church history has been a source encouragement for pastoral ministry?

The first one who comes to mind is C.H. Spurgeon. His sermons are powerful, his commentaries are insightful, and his gifting is evident. But above all these things, I have resonated with Spurgeon’s battle with depression and sadness, which have been well documented in a biography by Arnold Dallimore and an entire book titled Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine. This turmoil in his life and his continued faithfulness in spite of it ministers to my soul in light of sadness, stress, and compassion fatigue I experience in my own ministry.

If you were speaking to someone new to pastoral ministry, what encouragement would you give?

Faithful brothers are almost as valuable as oxygen.

Within my local church, I have two men that I am both discipling for leadership and depending on to share the burden of ministry here.

Within my local region, I have three other pastors that I call, text, pray, and visit with. These men become a sounding board for ministry decisions. They are partners in the faith from the same region and help provide rest for my soul. “Pastor” is a calling, a privilege, a title, and a position, but it is not a core identity. My relationships in the congregation see me as pastor, but these brothers from outside the church see me as a brother in Christ and that makes their relationships essential. One example of practical help has been working together to navigate region-specific decisions regarding ministry during COVID and being able to transition members from one local body to another in a healthy, non-competitive, and God-honoring way.

Outside of my region, I continue to surround myself with a multitude of counselors. Some are pastors, former professors, counselors, and some are mentors, disciplers, and friends. These individuals help make decisions, pray for you, and so much more.

I would encourage everyone in pastoral ministry to find and keep faithful brothers in all three contexts.

How can we pray for you?

Specific to ministry: we have a constitution revision committee that I am a part of to transition our church to become elder-led, and we are interviewing a candidate to come on staff as a pastor of music & youth.

Personal requests: my wife and I have struggled with infertility, having experienced multiple miscarriages over the past couple of years. I am also working on a dissertation for an Ed.D. in biblical counseling.

Faithful Shepherd Friday: Nathaniel Williams

This is part of a series called Faithful Shepherd Friday, which attempts to learn from faithful shepherds of Christ’s church laboring in obscurity.

Today’s faithful shepherd is Nathaniel Williams. He is the pastor of Cedar Rock First Baptist Church and the editor of IntersectProject.org.

Where do you serve as pastor and how long have you been there?

I serve as the pastor of Cedar Rock First Baptist Church in Castalia, NC, where I’ve served for more than five years. We’re a small church in a rural area northeast of the Triangle.

How do you go about sermon preparation?

I do sermon preparation in increments throughout the week. On Monday or Tuesday, I study the passage. That process typically involves rewriting the passage by hand, making notes and observations on the text, and taking a prayer walk in which I meditate on the text. In the middle of the week, I consult the commentaries and take another prayer walk to wrap my mind and heart around the passage. (This time is typically when the message takes its shape.) I then write a bullet-point draft by hand, and I conclude by typing my manuscript.

What book has impacted your preaching or pastoral ministry? Why do you think it is important for pastors to read this particular book?

The Work of the Pastor by William Still has deeply influenced me, and I’ve read it at least three times in the course of my brief pastoral ministry. Still’s little book is full of razor-sharp quotes, weighty wisdom, and practical suggestions.

In particular, Still speaks to two dangers that most pastors face. We find it abundantly easy to spend our time behind a pulpit preaching reactively and warn about dangers in the world (and rightly so). But Still also encourages us to preach proactively and teach the rich truths of scripture. He writes,

“A shepherd is no mere warder-off of wild beasts. To save the sheep from wild beasts and all other dangers is not to feed them; and if they are not fed, what matters whether they are safe or not? What is the good of being saved to starve?”

Similarly, every pastor has particular subjects or passages of scripture with which he resonates. If left to our own devices, we’d spend all our time addressing these pet subjects. Yet Still compels us to preach the whole counsel of God. He explains,

To keep dipping away into our own pet subjects and giving folk what we like best, or they like best, is not the way to feed the flock. No schoolteacher would get away for long with that cavalier attitude…[We’re called] to the ministry of the whole Word of God.

What figure from church history has been a source encouragement for pastoral ministry?

Lesslie Newbigin probably doesn’t count as a figure from church history. But since he died more than 20 years ago, I’m going to cheat and use him anyway.

Why? Newbigin returned to his home Britain after a season as a missionary. Upon returning, he realized that he also needed to treat his home culture as a mission field. I’ve been encouraged by his writings (namely The Gospel in a Pluralist Society and The Open Secret) and his commitment to bringing his neighbors into a missionary encounter with the gospel.

As our culture grows increasingly secular, we’ll need to have a similar posture — interacting with our neighbors not primarily as culture warriors, but as missionaries pointing them to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you were speaking to someone new to pastoral ministry, what encouragement would you give?

First, love the church. Loving the church sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Yet all of us have had painful or negative church experiences in our past, and this hurt can still linger in our souls.

Ask God to give you his heart for the bride of Christ. Ask him to give you a deep, abiding love for the people under your pastoral care. Ask him to give you a heart not just for serving the church or working at a church, but for loving the church. As one retired pastor once said, “There are three things you need to do to be a successful pastor: Love the people, love the people, love the people.” A hearty Amen to that.

Second, be patient. When I arrived at our church, I made a commitment to myself to try not to change anything for the first year. I wanted to focus all my attention on getting to know the people, meeting the community, and understanding the underlying systems and dynamics between people and ministries. This patience, I think, helped me better understand our church family, and it helped me establish credibility. To quote Bill Gates, “People overestimate how much can be accomplished in a year, and underestimate what can be accomplished in a decade.” No change worth having will happen overnight.

Finally, and most importantly, tend to your own soul. We need to develop spiritual disciplines in our lives to cultivate our love for God and other. We walk on dangerous ground if we seek to do an impossible task (ministering the word of God) in our own strength. And, as Eugene Peterson said, “How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion?” We need these rhythms of rest and prayer for the sake of our own souls — and for the sake of our people.

How can we pray for you?

I, like every other pastor, am fatigued after a year of COVID ministry. In all likelihood, a return to normalcy will be slow. In some ways, it feels like we’ll have to start from scratch. So pray for me (and all pastors) as we seek to serve our churches well in this season.

Also, one of the beautiful benefits of the past year has been spending more time with my wife and children. Pray that we would still prioritize this time even when we begin to creep back to normalcy.

Faithful Shepherd Friday: Josh Greene

This is part of a series called Faithful Shepherd Friday, which attempts to learn from faithful shepherds of Christ’s church laboring in obscurity.

Today’s faithful shepherd is Josh Greene who serves at First Baptist Church in Fairdale, KY. I had the pleasure of being a member of FBCF while at Boyce College and I served under him as youth pastor from 2010-2012.

Where do you serve as pastor and how long have you been there?

First Baptist Church Fairdale. I began as the youth pastor in 2003 and became Lead Pastor in 2009. 18 years total. 12 as pastor.

How do you go about sermon preparation?

3 Phases of Sermon Preparation for me:

1) I know by Sunday evening/Monday morning what my text is for the upcoming Sunday. I pray through the outline. I aim to have a rough outline by Monday.

2) Then the rest of the week I study. Read commentaries. I have no real set schedule, just whenever I have free time. Sometimes on the go, sometimes in my office, sometimes at home. And a large portion of that preparation is working through it all mentally as to how I will deliver it.

3) I start putting it down on paper on Friday/Saturday.

– Lots of prayer goes into sermon preparation.
– Very little effort goes into illustrations.
– I am always thinking of a few people in the congregation who I know will be there and thinking of how can I preach in a way they will receive well.
– I still use paper notes.

What book has impacted your preaching or pastoral ministry? Why do you think it is important for pastors to read this particular book?

  1. Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan). It makes me think so much about who the people are I’m preaching to and what they are going through. Life is so hard. Everyone that shows up to church is struggling. They are wondering, “Is this worth it?” They ask, “Can this truth sustain me and satisfy me?”

2. Preaching and Preachers (Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones). So good!

What figure from church history has been a source encouragement for pastoral ministry?

I’m not sure I have one. I think the biggest influence is knowing how many saints suffered and yet stayed faithful. Jesus was their reward. Today churches pay a lot, people move around a lot, and there is lots of vain attention to receive. Many from church history are an inspiration and example to be simple, humble, and faithful.

If you were speaking to someone new to pastoral ministry, what encouragement would you give?

1.You don’t have to be great like your heroes. You need to serve God as yourself.
2. Spend as much time as you can with your people. Visit. Visit. Visit.
3. Stay off social media.
4. Out work your people. Never ever let them think you are lazy.
5. Discipling your family is more important than anyone else you will disciple.
6. Stay as long as you can.

How can we pray for you?

That God would make me a good husband and dad.