One of the greatest and most influential preachers of all time, Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon warned those considering pastoral ministry who sought his counsel not to preach if they could help it. However, Spurgeon said, “If he cannot help it, and he must preach or die, then he is the man.” Spurgeon called this “an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.”
Anyone who is in pastoral ministry, preparing for pastoral ministry, or in the family of one in pastoral ministry can appreciate this counsel from Spurgeon because of the imposing and daunting nature of pastoral ministry. Preaching and pastoral ministry carry tremendous weight. Pastors are involved in the best and worst of people’s lives. Pastors are under great scrutiny from both friends and enemies at various points. Pastors’ families are constantly under the moral microscope of the church and community. I have intimated thoughts about the pastor and his family in the past. Preaching is a massive task. It is mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually taxing. Preparing and delivering sermons takes a lot out of the pastor who is already steeped in various other ministries, especially in smaller churches with smaller staffs. Preachers bear a weight of responsibility for what they say that is unlike any other, because what they say is the means by which the church grows or dies and the flock flourishes or is malnourished.
With all of this in mind, it would seem that the man who “must preach or die” is in a miserable state and a precarious position. His “all-absorbing desire” is to preach the word of God and minister to the people of God, but from the above confessions about the nature of the work of a pastor, particularly the primary preaching pastor, indicates that the ministry is like a slow, blind crawl up a massive mountain. However, there is unique satisfaction and gratification that comes with all of the struggles of the task of the preaching pastor. Once again, I preface this discussion by saying that I am not basing this on personal experience. I am preparing for pastoral ministry, but have yet to pastor in any capacity. Still yet, from conversations I have had with pastors and from various books, articles, and testimonies, I have gathered an incomplete list of five reasons that pastoral ministry is fulfilling, in spite of difficulties.
5 Reasons Preaching and Pastoral Ministry Are Fulfilling
1. Preaching is the chief means God uses to dispense grace
Paul charged Timothy: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching…As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:1, 2, 5). The preaching ministry of a pastor dispenses grace to God’s people through the exposition of the word of God. The work of the preaching pastor is to bring the people of God to the well of God to drink deeply of his life-giving grace. Consider these words from Calvin Miller:
Preaching exists to create the kingdom…the sermon is the workhorse of the ecclesia. Preaching is rescue work. It arrives on the human scene with splints and bandages to save and heal—and restore the world to all that was lost when the gates of Eden clanged shut.
2. The preacher is consumed with study and communion with God
This is sadly not always the case, and even pastors fail, but preaching pastors should dig deep into the word of God to bring out the treasure he finds to share with his congregation. Preparing and delivering sermons is only God-honoring when it is preceded by diligent study and prayer. The preacher should leave his study so aflame with desire and love for God that his congregation is attracted to the heat and light of the God the preacher has been with.
3. The preacher is accountable to the members of the church
This does not refer to unhelpful criticisms of preaching style, the choice of worship songs, or the color of the carpet. The accountability I have in mind here is good accountability where wise congregates graciously encourage the pastor toward right doctrine and away from
4. Pastoring embraces all of life
The pastor is involved in the most intimate moments of life. He is present for births and deaths. He conducts weddings and funerals. While some of these times are much more enjoyable than others, the pains of pastoral ministry are worthwhile when the pastor can walk with hurting and joyful people through the most important moments in life.
5. Rewards in this life are great
Faithful pastors will gain great eternal reward for shepherding the flock entrusted to them with the truth of the word of God. However, rewards for faithful pastoral ministry are not limited to future realization. In many ways, pastors experience tremendous reward in this life. There is nothing quite like preaching the word of God. I can attest to this myself. In my limited experience preaching, extolling the word of God is a unique joy that brings tremendous gratification. The love between a pastor and a congregation is special and seeing the people of God grow in the grace and knowledge of God is a tremendous reward for the pastor.
Pastoral ministry is challenging. I am not a pastor, but preparing for pastoral ministry is humbling as I think about the challenges that are ahead of me and my family. However, I am seeing that pastoral ministry, especially that of the preaching pastor, is incredibly fulfilling, so that the man who cannot help but preach finds a joy like nothing else.
What reasons would you add? Pastors, how does the preaching ministry and overall pastoral ministry bring fulfillment, satisfaction, and gratification to your heart? I’d love to see your thoughts in the comment section below.
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.