What the Man of God Must Do AFTER He PreachesApril 11, 2017
Hermeneutics was, by far, my favorite subject in seminary. The art and science of biblical interpretation not only inspired me to be a greater expositor of God’s Word, but perhaps more personally, gave me a desire to approach the text with moral, spiritual, and ethical character. When we approach the Word of God, we are forced to humble ourselves and become honest about the text, which in turn requires us to be honest about the condition of our own heart. The rules, principles, and precepts of hermeneutics have forced me to approach every sermon with the prayer of David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there by any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). Therefore, the preacher of God’s Word must be cautious, considerate, and careful in his study and preparation. Every hermeneutical textbook in my library expounds upon this thought.
However, after looking through countless books and catalogues about hermeneutics and preaching, I did not find one that practically addresses what a preacher is supposed to do after he steps away from the pulpit. Be certain, many hours of study, prayer, and preparation go into the sermon before it is preached, but what happens to the message after it is preached? Better yet, what is a preacher supposed to do AFTER he preaches?
He Must Review
Every preacher of God’s Word will naturally assess the message after it is preached. This could potentially be the hardest element of the preaching hour. The faithful expositor of God’s Word will analyze the delivery, assess the content, evaluate the congregation’s response, and replay the overall experience. The true expositor does not stop preaching after he has stopped preaching; but continues, as a workman, to labor in his mind and heart those things that need to be adjusted. Those who intentionally discard the reviewing process will rarely improve as a preacher of God’s Word.
He Must Resist
Gordon MacDonald said about preaching, “I’ve entered the pulpit feeling that I possessed the spirit of John Wesley, and I’ve come out of the pulpit feeling like Cedric the Entertainer.” Preaching is such a volatile experience. The highs can be celestial and the lows can be hellish. I, too, have entered the pulpit with a fiery message in my heart only to leave the pulpit with a dud of an outline in my Bible. During those moments, the preacher must resist the urge to quit. He should be cautious about displaying or possessing an inappropriate attitude or disposition. The very best expositors among us will have roller-coaster experiences. Learn to experience the theological ride with the grace of God as your guide.
He Must Reinforce
Literally, the preacher must practice what he preaches. A message preached from the pulpit on Sunday has greater validation when lived out in the life of the preacher on Monday. Too often a preacher will lose credibility and/or authority in his ministry because of his failure to reinforce the message with his life. Preach with deep, concise, and thorough exposition, but live with deeper, more concise and thorough reputation.
He Must Record
Early on in my ministry, I was careless in my logging and filing of sermons. I spent many hours writing, studying, and outlining my messages only to toss the notes away after I preached. I realize now that I could have benefited greatly from keeping those early notes, outlines, illustrations, and stories. Whether you hand-write your notes or keep them on an electronic device, come up with some systematic way to index them. A sermon should not only be well-organized in its content, but also in its cataloguing.
He Must Rejoice
We will never know everything God does in the preaching hour. Sometimes it feels like He moves mountains, other times it feels like we are crushed by those mountains He moves. Either way, rejoice in the Lord. The psalmist said, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalms 126:5-6). What a privilege it is to be a preacher of God’s Word. Rejoice in the calling, rejoice in the harvest, rejoice in the opportunity, rejoice in the truth, rejoice in the Lord always…before and AFTER each message.
He Must Rest
Preaching is work. I owned and operated my own construction business for many years before becoming a full-time pastor. During those early years, I labored intensely as I tried to build up my name and company in the community. I can honestly say that the act of preaching for 30-40 minutes is the equivalent of a full day’s labor. That is not factoring in the hours and days of preparation, pressure and prayer (neither is that considering all the other constraints that are associated with the day-to-day tasks of ministry). Again, preaching is work. The mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual weights that accompany preaching will never be known by someone who is not a preacher. So, with that being said, a preacher must learn to rest, regroup, and relax after the message is over because within a few days, he will mount the pulpit again.