Passion in preaching—the conviction that what we say is true and urgently important—is driven by our call, says Ajith Fernando. The apostle Paul had a strong sense that he was a steward. Fernando spoke to students this week as part of the Rom Lectures in Preaching.
“God has given me job to do,” says Fernando. “It’s an honor. We are ambassadors for Christ, representing him on earth. It’s also a responsibility.” As servants of Christ entrusted with the Gospel, we must make sure of the content we present to people. Preachers must prepare to present the truth faithfully, to rightly handle the Word.
There may be times when the Holy Spirit inspires a sermon, and in just 30 minutes the preacher is ready. However, those are the exceptions. “Generally speaking,” Fernando says, “preparation is hard work. We need to figure out what God has said, and determine how to best deliver what God says.” It is a great privilege and responsibility. A preacher shouldn’t cause his or her listeners to feel sorry for God that his representatives do such a bad job. “If our preaching dishonors God, it’s a crime,” Fernando says.
Preparation is also exhilarating. God’s Word is quick, active, and sharper than a two-edged sword. “I have spent 34 years in ministry,” Fernando says. “I’m tired. I must study, care for my family, and care for my ministry. It’s hard, and when I arrive in heaven I think I’ll spend the first three days asleep. But then I’ll get back to work.” That’s because, even while ministry can be exhausting, studying God’s Word is always refreshing. “This is a dynamic book, this Bible.” Problems come and go, Fernando says, but the Word of the Lord endures. The preacher should consider study an act of worship.
Paul often went into raptures talking about the wonderful calling he had to preach the Gospel, says Fernando. We should have the same sense of honor and privilege. Unfortunately, we often hear preachers say, “I could have been doctor, an engineer, or a lawyer, but I had the call to be preacher.” This is an attempt to get people to feel sorry for the preacher, says Fernando, and the church doesn’t need people who see preaching as a second-class calling. “I want to say, please go do that work you want to do. We don’t want people in ministry who feel sorry for themselves.” Preachers must feel, as Paul did, that woe is unto us if we do not preach the Gospel, Fernando says.