Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

Every minister stands on the shoulders of others who have preceded us. These may include the former pastor of your present church, your junior high English teacher, or a spiritual mentor. One man who shaped my life, especially in the realm of theology and books, was Bob Cahill, an ABC pastor, who is now with our Lord.

Bob wrote sparely, with precision and grace. I treasure a small collection of his church newsletter articles. As I was reading through some of them, this one jumped out at me, because it reinforced some of my recent reflections on what the minister is to do first, if he or she strives to be effective, and faithful.

“Like lightning on a clear day or cold water on the face William Perkins always gets my attention with his pointed words ‘Thou are a minister of the Word: mind thy business.’ Departures and deflections from that determined course means death to the pastor/teacher. He may, and often does, remain the ‘talking brother’ for the congregation but that is all—talk. With wit he may stir some. With charm he may entertain others. But he feeds not. He heralds no News from ‘the outside.’ All his resources are mirrors and psychological exercises. He may urge self-renewal but not Redemption. He suggests an easy diagnosis without sensing ‘sickness unto death.’ His healing art prescribes a ‘pill for an earthquake and a poultice for a cancer’ as another Puritan has it. Without the Word he knows neither peril nor Judgment. He sails in raging seas without compass or map.

‘Mind thy business’ warns Perkins. But grace converts warnings to invitations. The ‘business’ is so demanding, exacting and rewarding that leaving it is simply unthinkable. It is like a stern invitation to a joyful feast.”

Paul reminds Timothy of the centrality of the Word, and the high priority of delivering it faithfully to the flock. “Preach the word.” He urges this all-important task with Christ as his authority, lending extra weight to his charge. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:1,2)

There are so many tasks that a minister must discharge. There are numerous voices each telling the pastor what must be done. There are many temptations to put our hopes for church transformation in techniques and programs.

It would be easy to overlook job number one: faithful, clear, convincing, proclamation of God’s Word through preaching and teaching. And, it is foundational to leading a church towards health and transformation.

The book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, by Thom Rainer, affirms this. In it he draws conclusion from research conducted among 353 formerly unchurched people. These folks reveal what drew them to faith, and the church. It’s an intriguing book with much to teach us. I highly recommend it.

One of the questions asked of the formerly unchurched was “What factors led you to choose this church?” This was an open-ended question with multiple responses possible.  There were numerous answers, and the pattern reveals that no one factor was determinative. However, 90% of the responders indicated that the “pastor’s preaching” was the most important determiner for choosing a church. The second largest grouping of  answers was “clear doctrine” with 88%. The third factor, which led responders to choose a church, was “friendliness” with 49%. “Worship style” ranked tenth with 11%.

High on every former unchurched person’s reasons for why they chose a particular church was strong biblical preaching that communicated truth in an accessible manner. Strong biblical exposition with application proves to be life-giving and life-transforming, and the unchurched are hungry for it.

I urge you in the midst of this busy world in which we live, to give of your best to your preaching. Through faithful proclamation of God’s Word you will lead seekers to the Savior, you will grow disciples,  and you will strengthen the church. Your 25 to 35 minutes on Sunday morning are the most important minutes of your week.

Originally published May 5, 2004 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest