Advice for Those Looking to Preach

by Scott Smelser

Six random points, in no particular order:

  • A powerful message from a stern and elderly Tom Butler (addressing myself and several college-aged guys many years ago):

    "You young guys. You come and tell me you want to preach. No, you don't. You don't want to preach. What you want are a pulpit and a paycheck. If you want to preach, preach. There are people all over this community that need to hear the word. Reserve a room at the library, go through the community, and tell people that you will be speaking on the gospel that night. You don't need somebody's permission to preach. If you want to preach, do it."

  • Look way beyond starting at a small established church and aiming to "climb the ladder" to larger churches. And don't forget the importance of planting new churches. What did Paul say? "My aim is to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named" (Romans 15:20 CSB). Now, not everybody needs to do the same work. At Corinth, Paul planted, Apollos watered. Both were important. Without watering, gardens die. But without planting, gardens don't get started. And also, if you're planting then pick a good partner. Jesus sent them out by twos. Paul went by twos (and more). A good co-worker (or 3 or 4 like at Philippi) makes a big difference.
  • Books: Don't get enthralled with the latest-greatest author and his new book. Be a student of the biblical text. The better you know the biblical text, the less you will be impressed with some of the books that come along.
  • Also on books: If you are building a library, get the books other books are written about. Somebody told me that years ago. I don't remember who, but it's good advice. As an example: If you want to know about the so-called gnostic gospels, look at the Nag-Hammadi texts themselves, not just books about them. Actually reading the so-called "Gospel of Thomas" will tell you most of what you need to know about that text and the gnostics that spread it.
  • Keep Christ at the center: Don't convert people to the church (which is composed of people who sinned and needed a Savior), convert them to the Lord (the one who can save the sinner, who can then be one of his people). The church doesn't save, the church is the saved. And the church doesn't make the rules, the church obeys the rules. Keep the focus on Christ.
  • Brethren: Don't put yourself above helping people out with manual stuff. Helping somebody paint, fix their car, or going to play sports with them. These can be good opportunities to get to know them better, and for them to get to know you. I'm not saying to let yourself become the church errand boy. But do be a servant and a friend.
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