Preaching is a gift of God, and although some elders may not be as adept at it as others, all can, with God’s blessing, become effective in the pulpit and deliver an important spiritual message to the congregation. It has happened countless times by thousands of elders in unnumbered churches around the world.
CALLED TO PREACH
Are you an elder? If so, God has called you to minister
to His flock. You, along with the pastor, are one of the chief
leaders in your church. The deacons and deaconesses are
also called, and they are your colleagues. Together, you are
a team called by God to give direction, support, and spiritual
guidance to your church members. You can serve by teaching
a Sabbath School class, aiding your pastor in a communion
service, visiting the sick and the needy, giving Bible
studies, and, yes, even preaching. Preaching is a high calling
and a high responsibility. All of you are an important segment
of the local church membership.
But preaching, you say? Yes,
preaching is perhaps the most important
part of the church service,
and as an elder (or deacon or deaconess),
when you are called on
by your pastor due to absence or
illness, you must meet the challenge.
If you are a new elder, you
may squirm at this challenge. I can
assure you, however, that if you lay
this burden at Jesus’ feet, He will
help you rise to the occasion. And
if you peruse the following instructions
carefully and thoroughly and
practice them, you can become as
good a preacher as your pastor.
In several of the countries where my wife and I worked
over the years, it was the elders who ran the local church,
especially in large, multi-church districts such as in Mexico,
Bolivia, the Philippines, Haiti, and various countries in Central
America. Some of these districts contained 10, 15, or
20 churches, companies, and unorganized groups, making
it impossible for the district pastor to visit them more than
three or four times each year.
How were these churches attended to and what made
them successful? The good management by the elders,
deacons, and deaconesses made this possible. We saw
elders who performed all the duties of their district pastor—communion
services, board meetings, Bible studies,
and preaching. Some elders were dynamic presenters of the
Word, and some were successful local evangelists. Many of
these men held no formal college or university degrees or
had ever progressed beyond the elementary school level. It
was obvious that they were deeply imbued with the power
of the Holy Spirit.
As an elder in your local church, have you ever been
asked to preach? What was your answer? Did you say “Yes”
because you believed you had been called to church work
but felt incompetent in some areas? Did you say “No” because
you were too timid? Perhaps you would have liked to
preach but didn’t know how.
This article is about preaching. It intends to tell you how
to be a good preacher. I can assure you that if you follow the
principles in this article carefully and with the aid of the Holy
Spirit, you can become a dynamic preacher of God’s Word.
And, as that happens, you will be thrilled and deeply, humbly
satisfied. There is nothing greater than preaching and winning
souls for God’s kingdom.
BACKGROUND OF PREACHING
First, you should know something about preaching and
what the Bible says about it. The early church had some
great preachers: Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, Silas, and
others who are mentioned in the book of Acts. We can safely
assume, however, that these great early-church missionaries
trained elders and local church members in operating
the local church established by these apostles. As these
missionaries moved on to new territory, the local church
members and especially the elders stepped up to take their
Paul said, “It pleased God through the foolishness of
preaching to save them that believe . . .” (1 Cor. 1:21, KJV).
And Paul said further, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing
to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe to
me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). God invented
preaching and endowed certain men and women with this
gift in order to promote the gospel of salvation. Through
the unction of the Holy Spirit, the dedicated early Christians
brought millions to the foot of the cross. Since then, through
preaching, millions more have been brought to salvation,
and the practice continues today
On the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 were saved by Peter’s
preaching through the unction and power of the Holy Spirit,
who imbued all the disciples that day (Acts 2:38, 41). Peter
was an evangelist, and God used him mightily. He was a
powerful preacher because he was totally converted to Jesus
Christ, but only after he had made his decision to follow
Jesus all the way upon recognizing the terribleness of his denial
and subsequently repenting of it. His sermon on the Day
of Pentecost was not short (see Acts 2:40). People’s hearts
were pierced because the Holy Spirit was working hand-in-hand
with Peter and the disciples on that glorious day. The
same miracle can take place today, in your pulpit, though it
may be just one or two—or maybe even more—souls as
you deliver your Christ-centered sermon from time to time in
your own church’s pulpit.
FACTORS WHICH AFFECT THE PREACHER’S CREDIBILITY
AND HIS OR HER SUCCESS
Remember, preaching is a tool of the Holy Spirit to assist
in bringing men and women to repentance, as well as to
hold them in the pew. Human beings are the medium through
which the Holy Spirit uses the tool. The intensity to which the
tool is useful depends on several factors which are essential
for dynamic preachers.
The spirituality of the preacher is the most important
virtue of the preacher; without a deep spiritual life, his/her
ministry will only be partially effective. “Ministers must seek
God for His Holy Spirit, in order that they may present the
The dedication of the preacher is also important:
• Devotion to God calls for regular contact with God. Prayer is the single most important activity that a preacher can exercise. Without a deep prayer life, a preacher can never have the piety that his or her congregation expects.
• Devotion to soul-winning is part of preaching—it calls
for loving people and their salvation.
Humility is one of the most important traits a preacher
must have. Egotism or pride almost always shows through
and spoils the presentation and reduces respect.
The preacher must be sincere—the behavior must match
the message. Sincerity is a mockery when a preacher’s actions
don’t match his or her words.
The scholarship of the preacher means thorough study.
John Ruskin said, “A sermon is 30 minutes to wake the
dead.” The preacher ought to spend an hour of preparation
for every minute he or she preaches. This is what used to be
taught, but probably few preachers today spend such a great
amount of time; however, the more time spent in preparation
for a sermon, the more powerful that sermon will be.
The reading habit of the preacher is important—reading
extensively on a wide range of subjects, especially the Bible,
underlining the important material, making notes of what is
seen as useful, and filing those notes in alphabetical order by
subject. This will greatly enrich the pastor’s sermons.
The organizational ability of the preacher, particularly of
the sermon, refers to the sequence of thought and the natural
flow of ideas.
The wisdom of the preacher in choosing the proper content
for his or her sermon means that the message will be
meaningful to the particular target congregation.
The sermon delivery focuses on how the message is
shared: Body language, gestures, eye contact, voice inflection,
facial expressions, and pauses (which can be very powerful).
The courage of the preacher means:
• Calling sin by its right name, in love but with firmness and good taste
• Making altar calls
These challenges may seem rather daunting to you as an
elder. Just remember that you will not be an accomplished
speaker the first time you’re in the pulpit—and neither were
the great preachers of history. As you review the various items
in this article, seek to apply them, and call upon God to aid
you, your speaking ability will continually improve. So, don’t
despair. Remember, God is with you. (To be continued).
Ellen G. White, MS 127, 1902.
Lamar Phillips is a retired minister and church administrator who
served for 39 years in six world divisions.