Preachers are never lacking in what to preach. Topical and verse-by-verse preachers share the same library of 66 books. Every page is filled with stuff to preach.
But sometimes we lose sight of why we’re preaching.
- Expository preachers think they’re supposed to preach the geek stuff.
- Topical preachers think they’re supposed to make the Bible relevant.
- Series preachers think they’re supposed to grip the unchurched with practical advice.
Strike three. Expository, topical and series preachers whiff this one.
Too bad, because the Bible tells us the objective of preaching – our why: to prepare and motivate Christian people for active service in behalf of Jesus Christ!
2 Timothy 3:16-17 puts it this way:
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
- “Information” and “knowledge” aren’t foremost.
- In fact, they aren’t even listed.
- Scripture is used for four instructive purposes.
- The objective is maturity and service!
Ephesians 4:11-16 puts it this way:
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Notice what the text actually says:
- shepherds / teachers are given for a purpose.
- That purpose is to equip believers to do the ministry.
- When shepherds and people do their job, good things happen.
- Unity of faith and knowledge
- A mature church
- Immune to false doctrine
- Truth, love and spiritual growth
- The church grows
If the “appeal to authority” matters to you, consider what Thielman has to say on this matter.1
The notion of equipping or preparing, in the sense of making someone adequate or sufficient for something, best suits the context. However, it does require an object: people are prepared for some purpose. That purpose is for the work of ministry”, an activity of the saints for which the leaders are to prepare and equip them. Christ has given “special ministers” so that they will “make God’s people fully qualified,” thus enabling them to serve their Lord by serving one another.
Preaching isn’t the only tool in the pastor’s toolbox. But the descriptors in v. 11 are clear that teaching is one of the primary tools to equip believers to minister.2
Your people should expect and you should be preaching sermons that enlist them in and make them ready for the Lord’s service.3
- Thielman, Frank. Ephesians. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 303-4
- Whether you read “the pastors and teachers” as a compound term (the pastor-teacher) or as two duties of the single office (shepherding and teaching), the point is the same
- Additional means may include personal instruction, coaching, live demonstration, “watch one, do one, teach one” and other training methods