Preaching is Pastoral

April 26th, 2012| Topic: aBeLOG, Definition | 0

Preaching is Pastoral

In Nehemiah 7:73b–8:18, when the people assemble for the reading and explication of the divine law, it is the leaders of the assembly that are at the forefront of this endeavor. Thirteen named leaders of the community stand by Ezra the protagonist, on his right and his left, as Ezra does his thing. The leaders of the assembly thus are the prime activators of the reading of the God’s word for God’s people.

Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand.
Nehemiah 8:4

The corollary of preaching being ecclesial is that it is also pastoral. It devolves upon the one who is tasked with shepherding the congregation to exposit the Scriptures. Indeed, the regular exposition of God’s word is part of the task of shepherding, for it is an integral component of spiritual formation. I might go so far as to say that there cannot be a severance between preaching and pastoring. The two form an inseparable unity.

Why is it the pastoral leader’s task to preach? It is this one who bears the burden of the edification of the people of God. It is this one who has immersed himself in the word of God and the things of God. It is this one who, then, must convey to the children of God, with discernment and sensitivity, what a particular text means for their lives and how they might align themselves to the will of God. Thus, pastoral love, a burden for one’s flock, is the dynamo that drives the preacher’s passion. Barth once said: “Preachers must love their congregations. … It will not help to speak with the tongue of either men or angels if this love is missing” (Homiletics, 84). And it is the leader who sets the vision for the body and preaching is a significant facet of visioneering. (This also means there’s nothing like long-term, consistent preaching to a given local body of God’s people.)

In fact, the ability to teach God’s word is a biblical criterion of church leadership (1 Timothy 3:2; 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:24; Titus 1:9). The pastoral nature of preaching had been documented very early in church history. Justin Martyr in the third century records that “the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, … [then] the president [proedros, leader] verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things” (1 Apology 67).

I have used “leader” in my definition of preaching quite deliberately: preaching is the communication … by a leader of the church. This might, of course, be a church officer, whether pastor or teaching elder or one bearing another title. At the very least, one might say that such a person is to be either an elder (or one qualified to be an elder)—one who shepherds the flock, and is involved with people and with their lives on a consistent basis.

It is certainly fair to assume that there might be several in a congregation gifted to teach and preach, but who may not necessarily be holders of office. Those individuals with these gifts may legitimately be exercising their gifts at other venues: Bible studies, Sunday Schools, Adult Bible Fellowships, …. (In fact, what I do on occasion at Dallas Seminary’s Chafer Chapel is also called “preaching.”) I would argue, however, that the ideal venue of such activities is the church (preaching is ecclesial), and the ideal practitioner is a leader of that local body (preaching is pastoral). That is the prototypical locus of preaching, and such a leader the paradigmatic servant of the divine word (verbi divini minister).







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