There is too much contentment with mediocrity. It is common for preachers to be perfectly content with one course in Bible interpretation, one course in preaching, one course in theology, etc. They consider themselves fully equipped when they have barely begun to be prepared.
A great many are weak in grammar and vocabulary. They can’t write a proper paragraph in the English language, which is their mother tongue.
A great many have zero music training even though music is a major theme of the Scriptures and a major part of church life.
A preacher friend shared the following with me a few years ago: “I asked a missionary what books he had read lately that were a blessing, and he replied that all he reads is a magazine on running. I fear that Independent Baptists may be the illiterati of the 20th and 21st centuries. And the present addiction to iPhones and social media only makes it worse. ... Some years ago I started asking preachers questions when we sat around talking or when we drove down the road. Questions on what doctrine was especially precious to them at that moment, or what book of the Bible they love the most this week, or what good book they are reading, or which one has helped them grow the most, or what authors are the most challenging to them spiritually, or what they think about this or that verse. If they are driving, I take my Bible and read to them some passage I am meditating on and ask them to explain it to me. Most of them are out of their depth within ten seconds. Some stare at me with open mouth and shake their head. The Presbyterian pastors I know are the most adept at discussing solid Bible doctrine. Most of the Independent Baptist pastors have never read anything deeper than John Rice or Curtis Hutson. We had a missionary here this weekend who tells great stories, but doesn’t know ANY solid Bible doctrine.”
The church should be a serious Bible Institute, and the pastors are the headmasters, training the church in everything that is necessary to build it up and protect it. To accomplish this requires that he be a serious student.
Following are the biblical characteristics of a preacher who is right in his study life:
- He has been taught (Tit. 1:9).
- He is strong enough in God’s Word to protect the flock (Tit. 1:9-16).
- He is nourished up in good doctrine (1 Ti. 4:6).
- He gives attendance to reading and to doctrine (1 Ti. 4:13).
- He takes heed unto doctrine and continues in it (1 Ti. 4:16).
- He labors in the Word and doctrine (1 Ti. 5:17).
- He labors to rightly divide God’s Word (2 Ti. 2:15).
- He preaches God’s Word with doctrine (2 Ti. 4:2).
Ongoing study is interesting, challenging, educational, edifying, exciting, horizon expanding. It enriches your life, your home, your ministry.
The preacher must first of all be a student of God’s Word
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Jos. 1:8).
“... his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Ps. 1:2).
“O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Ti. 2:15).
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Ti. 3:16-17).
“I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up” (Ac. 20:32).
Ben Franklin suggested that a man be a jack of all trades and a master of one. That is good advice for a preacher, and the one thing he should master is the Bible.
“One of the most fatal habits a preacher can ever fall into is to read his Bible simply in order to find texts for sermons. This is a real danger; it must be recognised and fought and resisted with all your might. Do not read the Bible to find texts for sermons; read it because it is the food that God has provided for your soul, because it is the Word of God, because it is the means whereby you can get to know God. Read it because it is the bread of life, the manna provided for your soul’s nourishment and well-being” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, p. 172).
“The need of the hour is for young preachers to get their noses out of contemporary theology books and get their minds into the Word in an in-depth basis, 365 days a year, year in and year out. The Bible must be more than just a source of proof text for preaching. As one saturates his mind with the Word of God, it will begin to soak down into his heart and modify his theology, his behavior, his dedication, his morals, his convictions, and his philosophy of life. Incidentally, when one so saturates his mind with the Word of God, separation from the world and from apostasy will flow naturally. It is the view of this author the reason many young preachers are weak on separation at whatever level is because they are weak in their absorption of the Word of God. ... The devil is all too happy to see young preachers spending more time in contemporary theology books than in the Book of Books. It is no wonder there are so many defections and failures in the ministry. Furthermore, the devil will happily see to it that a preacher is super busy. ... Some are too busy to spend significant time in the Word. Such are on a collision course with trouble; whether theologically, philosophically, or morally” (David Sorenson, Broad Is the Way: Fundamentalists Merging into the Evangelical Mainstream).
“When I first joined the staff of the Moody Bible Institute, the radio pastor of the Moody network was a godly man named Robert J. Little. The more one came to know this beloved brother, the more one appreciated him. He was a giant in the Scriptures, a humble and able man with a big heart and a catholicity of interests. His knowledge of the Scriptures was encyclopedic. One day, in his later years, an elderly brother came up to him after a service and said, ‘Brother Little, I wish I had your knowledge of the Bible.’ R.J. looked at him for a moment. Then he said, ‘My dear brother, you are too late. In fact, I would judge that you are about fifty years too late. I have been studying my Bible diligently and intensively for fifty years. That’s how I gained my knowledge of the Bible. I’m sorry to tell you, my brother, that you can never have my knowledge of the Bible. You have left it for too late’” (John Phillips).
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