It’s that time of year again! People are making, proclaiming, and publishing their New Year’s resolutions. If you are among them, I truly hope you do better with yours than I ever did! My resolutions (none attempted in at least 15 years) were abysmal failures so I gave up making and breaking them long ago. Nevertheless, I still find great value in reflecting upon the passage of time – one year ending and another beginning. Rather than making resolutions, I prefer to assess positives and negatives, strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, etc. And that is exactly what I am doing today as I write this post.
Most of you already know I evaluate and re-evaluate things anyway (probably too much!), so what makes this New Year’s evaluation different? In short, it is a time when I can go “back to basics” and re-focus on the necessities of pastoral ministry. Perhaps this was not true of my earlier years as a pastor, but it has been the pattern during my time at CPC.
Each new year here has pressed me into deep self-examination, and the questions popping into my mind nearly overwhelm me. “How do we increase worship attendance? How can we evangelize better? Will we make budget this year? When will we get new members, families, officers? What do we need to do better? What am I actually doing well? How have I fallen short again – prayer? preaching? teaching? personal relationships? some other area?” Each year, without fail, questions like these have provoked accelerating anxiety and spiraling stress levels. And each year, without fail, our Lord has graciously provided needed reminders of my priority as your pastor. This year, he reminded me as I read the following article: “The Teaching Elder & the Ministry of the Word.”
As always, I encourage you to read the whole article, but here is an apt summary of the lesson I needed to (re)learn this year:
Today the pastor will feel the pressure to become a jack-of-all-trades, however, he must remain devoted to the ministry of the Word: public, private, and personal. The preaching of the Word of God and the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ must remain the pastor’s priority. “Preach the Word… preach the Word!”
Brothers and Sisters, that is my
New Year’s resolution renewed commitment to all of you in 2024. Whether publicly, privately, or personally, by God’s grace I will strive to preach the word boldly and humbly, faithfully and uncompromisingly, in season and out of season. I truly hope I have done so over the past three years at CPC and, Lord willing, will do so for years to come.
While considering my priority as your pastor (“preach the word”), I recalled Paul’s words to his faithful disciple, friend, and spiritual son – Timothy:
I 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, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~ 2 Tim. 4:1-5
We live in strange and tumltuous times (as have countless other belivers through the ages), surrounded by a culture hostile to God and his gospel, yet the Holy Spirit’s inspired words, spoken through the Apostle Paul, greatly comforted me (as they have done for countless other believers through the ages). They reminded me of a profound yet simple truth: no matter the circumstances, my task does not change – preach the word!
More broadly, this is true of us at CPC. Our task does not change. In all things, at all times, and in all places, we must preach God’s word to one another and to everyone around us so we might be found about our Father’s business when our Savior returns. Rather than all the “must-haves” of modern churches, let this be our priority in 2024 – preach the word!
In closing, I offer practical application of how we can better preach the word to each other and to the surrounding community. Our actions demonstrate the genuineness of our faith (James 2:14-26). Good deeds performed six days a week do not offset disobedience on the Lord’s Day. Instead, obedience on the Lord’s Day (e.g., hearing the word preached) should be the great catalyst for good deeds performed throughout the rest of the week. If someone is not participating in God’s appointed means of grace (e.g., corporate worship) and hearing the word preached, how can that person in turn preach the word to others?
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. ~ Rom. 10:14-17
Commit yourselves to observing the Lord’s Day at CPC. This begins with corporate worship. Prepare yourselves for worship (the subject of next week’s post) and attend consistently! Pray with and for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Attend whatever Sunday evening teaching series are offered. And tithe to the Lord as an act of worship and gratitude. Do these things (consistently!) by faith in 2024 and trust God to bring his blessing in his timing. Remember that hearts and lives are not changed by personal efforts or New Year’s resolutions; they are transformed by the work of God’s Holy Spirit and personal commitment to his word.