Pay Attention to Your Preaching

by John Meador

John MeadorThe greatest word of advice on preaching may well be the most brief! Paul's first letter to Timothy contains a prescription-an honest-to-goodness, apostolic, biblical set of instructions that would guide Pastor Timothy, and every other pastor out there who will listen, on how to preach. Before we look at whatthe advice is, we might consider the why of the instruction from Paul to Timothy.

In a word, "war" was happening at Ephesus: spiritual warfare, false teachers and selfish leaders were undermining the ministry of the Word at the immense church (probably the largest on earth at the time) Timothy pastored. The apostle refers to the need to "charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (1:3) It may have been a problem growing from the time Paul addressed the elders in Acts 20:30, saying that "from among yourselves, men will rise up, speaking perverse things" When you consider that the church may have met in various homes with various teachers, and when you realize that the enemy loves nothing better than to corrupt the truth, it is no wonder Paul gave advice to Timothy on how to preach in such a way that would correct some of these issues.

Is it just me, or do you find yourself saying, "Boy, not much has changed over the years. We have people all over the spectrum, when it comes to beliefs." So what's the preacher to do? Who should give us advice for this stuff? Let's try the Apostle Paul, and here's the advice: "Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" (1 Tim. 4:13).

See? It is short and sweet. Exact. To the point! Paul says, "Pay attention to these things: Reading, Exhortation, Doctrine." What does it mean?

Pay Attention to Reading

The word Paul uses here means to "know again, to read." The word itself instructs as to why it is so important to read the Scripture as we preach. It helps us "know again" what we may have heard, or learned, but need to be reminded of. It reinforces. It changes the way we think about life. Pay attention to reading!

This is not merely advice given primarily for people to take and do at home.This prescription involves the public ministry of preaching. Read the Scripture! The greatest preachers on earth read the Scriptures publicly. Take, for example, Ezra in Nehemiah 8:2-8. Look at him reading the Law as the people stood-for hours! Watch revival break out there.

What about Jesus? He stood in the synagogue and read the Scripture (Luke 4:16) before astounding them with the application-Himself! Paul told the Colossian congregation to read his letter among themselves and to make sure the church at Laodicea did the same thing (Col. 4:16).

I'm disappointed when I attend churches known for their great communicators and find that the Scriptures are rarely opened and even more rarely read. They have just failed to touch "first base" on their way to preaching. In reality, much of what they say beyond that doesn't count for much, in terms of transformation. They've excluded what God promises to bless. Not good.

Pay Attention to Exhortation

This refers to preaching. "Exhortation" means to "call near, to admonish or encourage" and refers to the persuasive discourse that should flow from the text that has just been read. Its purpose is to move people to apply what we've learned in our reading of God's Word. It includes explanation, interpretation, and application.

Exhortation is vitally connected to what has been read. Reading the text and then failing to exhort from it is inconsistent with biblical preaching! This rules out the preacher who begins with a text but uses it only as his springboard to go somewhere else, never to return. It should correct the preacher that builds his message on a story or an idea and just needs a text to make it look "spiritual." The apostolic advice-the biblical counsel (better than the latest seminar!)-would be to read, then to exhort from the text, basing the exhortation and preaching on the actual words of the Scripture.

Pay Attention to Doctrine

This refers to the teaching or instruction itself. It helps the hearer conclude, "This is what we are to believe, because this is what the Scripture says." Can you imagine how that would destroy the false teaching of the usurpers Timothy was dealing with? Do you see how the careful reading, exhortation, and doctrine would keep the whole church on the same page of belief instead of having to confront all kinds of misinformation about God and life?

What does all this add up to? Expositional preaching. If I don't have a scriptural basis for my message, and if I don't take the listener to and through the text, my preaching is at odds with both the apostolic practice and the apostolic command. On the other hand, to follow this prescription is to directly follow Paul's counsel to Timothy and the practice of thousands of years of effective and life-changing preaching. It takes me back to what the Bible teaches about preaching-and that's a good thing to pay attention to.

John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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