“Failing At What You Have Been Uniquely Gifted To Do
May Be One Of The Real Failures In Ministry.”1
On March 28, 2019, Dr. Crawford Loritts spoke at Dallas Theological Seminary. In speaking to hundreds of future pastors and preachers, Loritts stated that a preacher will fail . . . if he fails at any one of three tasks. 2
- You Need To Proclaim Truth
- You Need To Possess Truth
- You Need To Do All That Is Written In It
All of God’s people have been called upon to proclaim, possess, and practice. The Scriptures have a word for that — “disciples.”
Nevertheless, while all believers or disciples are to proclaim, possess, and practice the truths of Scripture, the pastor is decidedly more responsible. He is rightfully held to a higher standard — “to whom much is given” / “be not many teachers” / “a bishop then must be” / “apt to teach.” He is the one who is “preaching” to others about proclaiming, possessing, and practicing!
I would suggest that failure as a pastor is uniquely connected to that position and role. The very nature and purpose for being in the pulpit are preaching and teaching God’s Word to the Lord’s disciples. What makes him different from all other “disciples” is his preaching and teaching ministry. AND THEREFORE, his unique position and ability to preach will be weakened or debilitated by those three elements . . . .
- not clearly and effectively proclaiming the truths of Scripture
- not personally possessing and feeling those biblical truths
- not practicing and living out those truths in his life and the life of his family
#1) Proclaiming: Preaching involves the ability to effectively communicate the clear and simple truths and principles of Scripture. When pastors complicate or contort the truths and principles of Scripture, they contribute to their failure.
Complicate: May I suggest that the truth derived from this-or-that passage of Scripture is far more simple than most make it. The real work in preaching is communicating truths effectively. The hard work is often more about how to go about getting simple truths across to the mind, heart, and will of the listeners.
God’s people did not sign up for a seminary class in theology. If you think that those listening want to hear what all took place in “the kitchen before the meal,” you would be mistaken! Rather, they have come to the “dining room” for a good meal! God’s people are there — voluntarily — because they just spent a week in this fallen world and need a good spiritual meal that speaks to their minds and hearts, which can help direct their feet.
Contort: At times, Bible preachers-teachers work hard to avoid what a particular Scriptural passage states because of the passage’s personal implications. To preach what the passage states may conflict with their own life-style, or it may oppose what they want to believe, or how they conduct their ministry.
“i.e. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” — apparently no longer means what it says. The verse cannot mean that because I can give you an example. It must be the verse, not the failure of the parents.
God’s people are willing to show a great deal of deference to a pastor’s understanding of a passage of Scripture — “Oh, I never thought of that passage that way.” However, there is a breaking point. When the clear and simple sense of a passage is twisted beyond what seems obvious and natural, that deference becomes terminal. It dies a slow death as the pastor tries to make a passage say what is rather obvious.
I have often said, “If you just picked up the Bible and read this passage — in its context — as a new believer, or even if an unbeliever was reading it, what would you say was being said by the author?”
#2) Possessing: Another preaching element includes being “without guile” — sincere, genuine, authentic. The “disciples” who are listening expect that what is being preached and taught is genuinely held, possessed, by the pastor.
That when a pastor speaks about love, compassion, hospitality, patience, prayer, sharing one’s faith, service, honesty, not a sluggard, etc. — that he truly believes in what he is saying!
Again, God’s people show a great deal of grace when it comes to pastoral expectations — “None of us are perfect.” “We will all fail.” However, if the one who is preaching to others is not meaningfully identified by that which he challenges and exhorts others to be, it is “influentially-deadly.” Given time, the pastor-preacher has no real impact and life-changing impact on God’s people.
I have heard pastors share that they are embarrassed by God’s people’s behavior or responses — in serving, attendance at a funeral, lack of interest in teaching, immodest-inappropriate dress, poor attendance patterns, in opening up their homes, showing hospitality, repeatedly showing up late, etc. I have often said to myself (a few times to them) — “You taught them!”
Pastors who . . . .
- don’t go to church services while on vacation
- do not show up to serve alongside of God’s people
- allow their children to dress inappropriately
- don’t attend the teaching of God’s Word when others are teaching
- show up late and/or exit early
- don’t attend a funeral / wedding unless officiating
- do not invite others to their home
- do not personally care and visit
- delegate their responsibilities to others on the staff
- have little time to talk to and get to know others
. . . . will slowly dull the ears of those they are preaching to!
#3) Practicing: Preaching biblical truth, and failing to understand, that by your actions, you are also nonverbally communicating . . . .
√ what you believe “in deed”
√ whether you really believe what you verbally said you believed
√ whether you yourself grasp that what you say you believe is so not you
. . . . will sink you given time.
Over time, God’s people soon come to realize that ministry is much like the world of politics — do as I say, not as I do / “me, but not thee.”
It will sink you. It typically shows up one of two ways . . . .
- Your ministry will be short-lived — one of the reasons pastors keep moving after 3-4 years.
- You will have little-to-no real influence in the lives of God’s people. There will be little real change in the way God’s people live life.
Many a preacher has a “tin ear.” They do not grasp that all that they are saying from the pulpit is being correlated with how they live life. That is why there are biblical requirements for pastoral and preaching!
. . .. . .
There is a lot of grace and kindness which a pastor-preacher is given by God’s people, and it can be stored in the bank of good-will. That grace and kindness will forgive many a weakness and failure.
Nevertheless . . . .
There are ways to fail at the very calling you have been given
as a pastor-preacher!
1. Ted Martens
1. You Need To Proclaim Truth – “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth”. Crawford states, “These people don’t need to hear your opinions and ideas. They need a word from God.” He goes on to add, “These people don’t need to hear your stories. They don’t need to see your movie clips… They don’t need to hear that. They need to hear a word from God.”
2. You Need To Possess Truth – “you shall meditate on it day and night” He says, “You have to absorb the truth. This truth needs to become who you are… Absorb it. Know it. It is who you are… It is not something you use. It is not a ministry tool. It is your identity. It is living and powerful. And the Spirit of God shows up when you honor the Word of God. It is literally the voice of God.”
3. To Do All That Is Written In It – “so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Crawford makes an interesting observation. He says, “Notice the pronoun. Then YOU will make YOUR way prosperous.” He concludes this portion of the message by saying, “Ministry is incarnational. You have to become a picture of the desired destination at which others should wish to arrive.”
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