Preparing to Preach

Man holding Bible on road

One who decides to devote his life to the preaching of the gospel is to be commended. It is an important work and one which will always be needed. But how would a man who has decided to devote his life to the gospel prepare to do the work?

Some brethren who desire to preach turn to colleges. They believe they can enroll in the college, complete the courses, receive their degree, and then be ready to begin preaching. Others turn to preacher training schools run by other gospel preachers. They believe they can attend the classes and lectures, complete the program, and then have the necessary training to preach. Actually, neither of these are necessary. While it is possible they could help in some ways, they may have an adverse effect in other ways.

In the New Testament, we do not read of any gospel preacher making preparations to do the work of an evangelist by attending a college or preacher training school. If one believes he cannot preach without these, he ought not preach. So what is necessary for one who desires to preach? He must have a working knowledge of the word, an ability to preach it plainly, a willingness to suffer, an honest heart, and of course, a desire to preach.

Knowledge of the word – Those who preach have the responsibility to “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11, KJV). Timothy was told to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). In order to do this, one must know the word. So Paul instructed Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). To accurately handle the word, one must be able to do more than just read a passage. He must be able to explain it in such a way that respects the context and harmonizes with the rest of Scripture. If one desires to preach, he must “be diligent” to study to learn how to handle God’s word accurately.

Ability to preach plainly – The gospel is the most important message that anyone could hear. It is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). Therefore, it is imperative that people be able to understand the gospel message. So a man must be able to explain the word of God in such a way as to help people understand. It is not necessary for one to have a broad knowledge on a number of secular topics or for one to be a polished public speaker. Paul told the Corinthians, “I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). He later told them, “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech” (2 Corinthians 3:12, KJV). If one preaches so that people can understand, he can be a faithful preacher, even if he is not the best public speaker.

Willingness to suffer – Paul told the evangelist Timothy, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). While it is true that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12), those who devote their lives to the public proclamation of the gospel often suffer more than others. That suffering could be anything from physical persecution (2 Corinthians 11:23-26) to being forsaken by friends (2 Timothy 4:10). Truth is not always popular. Those who preach the gospel will at times be tempted to compromise the truth in order to avoid suffering, whether by changing it (Galatians 1:6-7) or not preaching all of it (Acts 20:27). If one does this, he is not “innocent of the blood of all men” as Paul was (Acts 20:26). Instead, he is “accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9). If a man wants to preach, he must believe that the gospel is so important that he is willing to lose friends and suffer physical harm because of it, should that become necessary.

An honest heart – Paul told Timothy that the “goal of our instruction” is, among other things, “a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). Those who would be faithful to Christ would have “an honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15). Honesty and sincerity are especially important for a gospel preacher, because of the influence he has over others (cf. James 3:1). There may come a time when a preacher is wrong about something. There will also be issues and questions that arise that he has not previously studied. This is when having an honest heart is so important. At these times, a preacher must be able to study the word of God objectively with an honest heart, free from bias and prejudice. Something is not right because I believe it, taught it, or someone I respect has taught it. Something is right because God’s word teaches it. An honest heart will allow one to see the difference between these and accept the truth, even if it is contrary to what he has believed, taught, or been taught.

Desire to preach – No one should feel as though he is being forced into preaching. One must first have a desire to preach before devoting his life to the gospel. While we could always say that we need more men preaching, not all Christian men should be preachers (James 3:1). If a man does not desire to preach, he should not be a preacher. If a man only desires to teach some of God’s word, instead of the sum of it (Psalm 119:160; Acts 20:27), he should not preach. If one is not sure whether or not he wants to devote his life to preaching the gospel, he should not do so until he is sure. The work of an evangelist is too important and too demanding to be left to those who do not really want to do it.

Conclusion

It is a noble aim to devote one’s life to the preaching of the gospel. If a man desires to preach, he must make preparations in order to be able to fulfill his responsibility. Be diligent in studying God’s word and develop the ability to explain it in such a way that people will understand. Prepare and be willing to suffer for the cause of Christ. Always approach God’s word honestly and humbly. Never refrain from preaching parts of the gospel for fear of offending or angering others. If one does these things, he should make a fine gospel preacher.

Remember Paul’s words to Timothy: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things; endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).


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