Preaching is essential to the life and ministry of a pastor. Admittedly in the 21st Century, pastors wear many hats and carry out many responsibilities. Preaching is his first priority, but not his only one. But within the context of the local church, preaching is the pastor’s preeminent role. It is what makes the preacher indispensable in the life of the local church. It has always been this way.
To preach means to herald, to lift up one’s voice, to proclaim. It is to speak boldly, even loudly, without fear. It is to unapologetically make known the truth of God.
God sent forth the prophets of old to preach. The gospels tell us both John the Baptist and Jesus came preaching. At Pentecost, the church was birthed through preaching. Throughout Acts, the preaching of the Apostles upended the world and fertilized the church. The office of deacon was formed to facilitate prayer and the ministry of the Word. Paul customarily went to the Synagogue and reasoned from the Scriptures.
As we come to the Pauline epistles, we are told in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 that the elder must be “able to teach.” In I Timothy 4, Paul told Timothy until he came to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to preaching.” And, of course, in 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul charged Timothy—and through Timothy, us—to “preach the Word.”
Church history teaches us this as well: the men who have most mightily advanced the church and shaken the world have done so through the pulpit. Peter preached. Paul preached. Augustine preached. Luther preached. Calvin preached. Knox preached. Edwards preached. Whitefield preached. Spurgeon preached.
As Protestants, our own church life reinforces this. Our architecture places the pulpit front and center. In as much as we have a liturgy, it features preaching as the central component. Our jargon reinforces this point (or at least once did): pastor search committees were once called “pulpit committees,” a call to ministry was a “call to preach,” and the pastor was often simply called “the preacher.”
Paul’s Last Words are Lasting Words
Paul’s final charge to Timothy to preach the word carries a particular weight and enjoys a lasting endurance as a ministerial charge. And it should. In context, there is a certain heft to Paul’s exhortation to Timothy. They are the dying words of a dying man to a distressed church and a discouraged son in the faith.
Paul knew his death was near and he knew that empire-wide persecution of Christians was underway. This had accelerated mass defections from the church. Apostasy and disavowal of the faith were too common. Timothy himself was vacillating, equivocating, in need of strength and personal fortification.
Every man called to preach can easily read himself into 2 Timothy 4:2. It has a certain romance to it. It has a magnetic pull, calling us to it again and again. We easily identify with Timothy, we hear Paul’s voice, as it were, we feel his concern, and we desire to heed his admonitions.
It is Paul’s word to Timothy, to the church, and, in a real way, to us. The pastor is to be a preacher—he must preach the Word.
*This article is an excerpt from Letters to My Students, Vol. 2, On Pastoring, by Jason K. Allen.