Obviously, there are scores of things a pastor should learn to do well, because there are so many demands made upon the life of the pastor and there are so many expectations made of him. Ask a dozen Baptists to name the two top things a pastor should know how to do well and the answers would likely be different from my answers. And to be honest, my answer my be different next week.
I just read one website article entitled “3 Things Every Pastor Must Do” and the author included: (1) feed the sheep, (2) love the people, and (3) admit when you are wrong.
Another article began with the words: “Every lead pastor, regardless of church size, should be devoted to three key priorities weekly. The three priorities are: (1) a minimum of 10 hours on sermon preparation, (2) a minimum of 13 hours weekly on leader development, and (3) a minimum of 4 hours on vision planning.
I have chosen two things every pastor should learn to do well, because I think these two things have been neglected and minimized in all too many churches today.
First of all, I think every pastor should know how to take up the offering. The very existence of our churches and our mission endeavors depend upon the faithful stewardship of church members.
Mike Holmes, writing for Relevant Magazine, says, “The church today is not great at giving. Tithers make up only 10-25 percent of a normal congregation. Christians are only giving at 2.5 percent per capita, while during the Great Depression they gave at a 3.3 percent rate. Furthermore, currently less than one-third of charitable giving goes to religion. In the mid-1980s fifty-seven percent of charitable giving went to religion."
Most preachers don’t like to preach on giving, and many church members don’t like to hear sermons on giving (However, I have never heard a tither complain about a stewardship sermon). The truth is that those of us who preach do not need to take up the offering in an apologetic way.
Today many preachers are afraid they will offend someone if they ask them to give. I have also heard ministers say, “If you are visiting today, we don’t expect you to give, so just put your ‘connection card' in the offering plate when it is passed.” Giving is part of worship and while visitors may choose not to give, they should not be discouraged from doing so.
One of the greatest things a pastor can do for his people is teach them to give. There are so many blessings promised to those who faithfully bring their tithes and offerings into the storehouse (church). See Malachi 3:10-12; Luke 6:38; II Corinthians 9:7.
One of the greatest verses on giving is found in Luke 16:11 where the Lord says, “If therefore you have not been faithful in unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches.” I think this is one of the requisites to revival. Some scholars have identified “true riches” as the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am thoroughly convinced that until we get right on this matter of stewardship we will not experience revival or possess the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Therefore pastors, do not be hesitant, reluctant, or reticent about taking up tithes and offerings. Make it a vital part of the worship service; and let the people know how their giving will rescue them from selfishness, make it possible for the church to fulfill its ministry, help reach the world for Christ, and ignite the fires of revival.
Twenty years ago I went to the Bahamas on a mission trip and preached in several churches there. Most of the people were poor and underprivileged, but when the offering was announced the people stood and applauded. Giving for those people was a celebration.
When I came home I explained to the people I pastored what I witnessed and that the offering provided an opportunity for the people to become participants rather than spectators in worship, that it was a time to express thanksgiving for God’s provisions, to undergird the ministry of the church and the worldwide mission enterprise of Southern Baptists. We started applauding every time the offering was announced. I think it helped change the attitude about giving.
So pastors need to learn how to take up the offering. It should become a time of victory and celebration.
Secondly, I think every pastor should know how to give an invitation. I have heard too many weak, milquetoast, unassertive, ambiguous invitations that it is a wonder that Georgia Baptists baptize as many people as we do.
When a sermon is prepared it should be prepared with the invitation in mind from the beginning. In fact, everything in the service should point to the invitation. The invitation should be the great climax to the worship experience.
I recall a story that I believe was traced back to Charles Haddon Spurgeon. A young pastor came to Spurgeon and complained that almost no one ever came to the altar when he preached – that there were so few professions of faith, so few commitments, so few people frequenting the altar to get right with God.
Spurgeon responded, “Well, you don’t expect people to come to the altar every time you preach, do you?
The young pastor replied, “Well, no. I don’t expect people to come to the altar every Sunday."
The great London preacher said, “Well, that is the very reason they don’t come.”
So, dear pastor, start planning your sermon beginning with the invitation. Ask God to tell you what your people need to do in response to His Word. Craft your sermon accordingly and let everyone know that the focal point of the service is the altar and the most important part of the service in the invitation and that their greatest act of worship is their response to the preaching of His Word.
You may say, “Well, I have a small church and I don’t expect the faithful few that come to make their way to the altar every Sunday.” You may be right about that, but an empty altar should compel the pastor and the people of our churches to go out into the hedges and highways to compel them to come. The lost and unchurched need to be brought in so they can hear the message, see a brokenhearted pastor preach his sermon, and make his plaintive appeal.
Pastor, make sure when you give your invitation that you do not give an uncertain sound. Let the people know what you believe God wants them to do in response to the preaching of His Word.
Not every invitation has to be the same. Call for souls to be saved. Lead them in the sinner’s prayer. Call for relationships to be healed. Call for marriages to be restored. Call for parents to commit their lives to raising godly children. Call for students to surrender to full-time ministry. Call for people to surrender to the call to good stewardship, to Christian service, to faithful praying, and consistent witnessing.
Make the invitation plain. Make it direct. Make it bold. Expect a response. Celebrate the harvest.
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