Preaching for Change. Leading from the Pulpit.

Vanessa and I have been reading through the Bible chronologically together this year. We have spent the last several mornings camping out with the Israelites on their 40-year field trip through the desert. Moses, their leader, loves them as he leads them. He intercedes for them before God. He listens. He communicates. He empowers. Moses is far from perfect, but he is an exemplary leader of the covenant community God has given him. His people are on a journey, and part of their leader’s joy is to guide them on the path God has set before them.

Pastor, your congregation is on a journey. You are headed somewhere together, over time. And part of your pastoral joy is to guide this journey from the pulpit. You are to lead them with intentionality, calling the covenant community to positive forward movement together week after week. But movement usually requires change, and change is hard. So how does the pastor lead change from behind the sacred desk?

What follows is not a step-by-step guide to success. Rather, this is more like a collection of thoughts for encouragement as you lead your people in the direction God has given, for His glory and for their good.

Discern the vision. This is Jesus’s church and it must be His vision. There is no substitute for spending time with God, pastor. Don’t pretend to take God before the people if you are not regularly taking your people before God. If you are to discern a God-sized, God-shaped vision for the congregation you are called to lead, you must spend time with God in prayer, Bible reading, and meditation. You can’t fake this. You can’t microwave it. Ask God to show you, with clarity, how He is working in and through your congregation. Write down what God shows you. Seek wise counsel from others you trust both inside and outside the congregation. Dream big, but prepare to implement gradually and methodically.

“Don’t pretend to take God before the people if you are not regularly taking your people before God.”

Preach the vision. Intentional pastors cast vision every time they stand before the people. The vision is in the carefulness of selected illustration, the practicality of suggested application, and the effectiveness of passionate delivery. The selected biblical text will be the heartbeat of every sermon, and the vision will always be in the bloodstream. Every time you stand before the congregation, you have an opportunity—and a responsibility—to massage the vision into the backbone of the church body.

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Preach the text. Your people will not trust your vision if they do not trust your preaching. They don’t need your clever self-help programs or your opinions on current issues. They need to hear from God, and He speaks to them through His Word. Biblical preaching is not about what you want to say, but rather, what God wants to say through you. Choose biblical passages and/or books of the Bible prayerfully, with directional purpose, then let the text talk. God’s Word is powerful. Let it do the work.

Be clear. Your people won’t go where they don’t know. Use your words to paint a picture of where you are leading them. Make it positive. Make it hopeful. Then make it memorable. Carefully think and pray through how to say it short. Be crystal clear. Take the picture God has given you and refine it with calculated concision. After a month or two, your people should be able to verbalize the direction themselves. They need to own it. It should be memorable. Repeatable. Impactful.

Take it slow. When your congregation walks together with Jesus, there is just as much joy in the journey as there is in the arrival. Don’t be so focused on getting where you’re going that you miss the joy of the moment. Ministry is about people. Relationships. As you walk with Jesus together on this journey of change, every moment is a God-moment. So soak it in. Choose your battles wisely. Love the people. Serve them. Value them. Slow down.

“When your congregation walks together with Jesus, there is just as much joy in the journey as there is in the arrival.”

Pastor, the weekly preaching task is an intense responsibility. But it is such a great joy as well. Intercede for your people. Listen well. Communicate with clarity. Empower them. Love them. You are far from perfect, but you are God’s chosen leader of this covenant community today. Your people are on a journey, and part of the leader’s joy is to guide them on the path God has set before them.

How is your preaching shepherding your people these days? Where are you headed together? And what joy is God giving you along the journey with them?

Grace and Peace,
Tony

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