Preaching as Worship – Part 2

Worship Begins in the Pastor’s Study

While worship is the aim of preaching, The Holy Scriptures is the essence of biblical preaching, therefore, all that that Bible sets out to do is what preaching will accomplish.[1] The Scriptures testify to the authority of God’s Word when one preaches them faithfully and correctly. However, the preparation for preaching begins much earlier than when the pastor stands in the pulpit on Sunday as must prepare himself through soul care and spirituality. He must also prepare and construct his sermon according to biblical standards of expository preaching. Furthermore, all of these steps are acts of worship to God made manifest through the pastor’s personal life. Thus, a pastor must take explicit and intentional action to prepare sermons, while regarding all that is done as worship to the Lord.

A Reformed View of Preaching

Preaching cannot be seen as a weekly task to be taken lightly but it must be approached with much caution and humility. However, in many evangelical pulpits, preaching has lost its importance. Sad to say, many churches focus more upon music and the “culture” of the church rather than aiming to be guided by the Word of God in all areas of life (which would include such things as culture and music). Nonetheless, preaching is where all of this begins, for it is the proclamation of God’s Word, and God’s Word is what governs the doctrine and practice of the local church. Thus, preaching must aim for the following elements.

First, preaching must aim to communicate the knowledge of God in regard to salvation. The Bible repeatedly speaks of salvation as the “knowledge” of God (Is. 33:6; Jer. 3:15; Luke 1:77; Rom. 2:20; 1 Cor. 12:8; 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 4:13; 1 Tim. 2:4; Titus 1:1), therefore, it is necessary that those who are under the instruction and proclamation of the Word of God to not only hear, but to understand what is being proclaimed. Otherwise, salvation is not possible because knowledge of God involves understanding. It is the task of preaching that affords a pastor the opportunity to convey the truth of the Bible as understandable so those hearing the proclamation can be understood and understanding will lead to salvation.[2] Nothing ascribes worship to God more than the saving of those who are lost (Luke 15:10).

Second, preaching must implore the congregation to think biblically with the desire of worshipping God. Once salvation has occurred, the purpose of preaching is to entreat the congregation to think biblically about the way in which they live. Genuine spirituality that is born out of love for God expands to all of life. Thus, to think biblically is to immerse one’s self in the Word of God so much that it affects the way they live their lives. This is not only the calling of pastors but is the calling of all Christians.[3] Therefore, Christians must think biblically – this is a must! In a world of constant relativity and indigenous disgust for Christianity, it is absolutely essential for Christians to make the center of life God rather than themselves.[4] In other words, living and thinking biblically is living with Christ and his cross at the center of our lives.[5] This, of course, does not imply that life will be prosperous with large bank accounts or massive amounts of property. Instead, it infers that the lives of believers, who are faithful and committed to Christ, will be lives of leisure and freedom because the believer is honoring God’s pursuit of him through Jesus Christ.

Third, preaching must invoke theologizing. Theologizing, essentially, is the act of doing theology for one’s self. All believers are not called to glean their doctrine from others who have done the work for them. Paul says believers should “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). McGrath shows the importance of theology: “Pelagianism is the natural heresy of zealous Christians who are not interested in theology.”[6] Those who are not interested in theology (pastors included!) must understand that Christianity is a religion of the heart, will, and mind. Therefore, the Christian mind is necessary for the pastor standing in the pulpit each week, and for his hearers. Theologizing, especially in preaching, is to instruct the congregation to apply the deep truths of Scripture to all of life for the glory of God.[7]

Each of these steps for pastors do not come without hard work. It takes rigorous activity and devotion to develop and deliver Christ-centered, God-honoring, and Spirit-filled messages that glorify God and edify the believer. For this reason, the pastor must take time out of his week to develop and deliver his sermons.

A Plea to Study

Since preaching is the focal point of every worship service, preparing for each service accordingly must be a vital element of the pastor’s weekly activities. Though the pastor coming under the Word of God is a necessity for faithful preaching, there is a distinct difference between a pastor’s personal life as a believer and his task as a pastor of a local congregated body. Hence, the pastor must engage in the spiritual disciplines through a personal activity in the Word, but the question deals with how this aspect of instruction and conviction bleed into the construction of sermons.

Every pastor must aim to be a biblical theologian – that is, they must aim to discover how each text they preach fits into the grand narrative of Scripture.[8] The task of biblical theology seeks to make sense of the entire Bible as one comprehensive story, which entails exegeting specific passages in light of the story of Scripture.[9] Therefore, as the pastor aims to interpret the biblical text, he must also continue to keep forefront the story of redemption as Scripture unfolds for him through a specific passage. Interpretation through the process of exegesis is rigorous and takes time to think through the difficulties of biblical truth. There are times when the Bible does not make sense to the human mind. Thus, the pastor must work through these issues to exhort his congregation to salvation, thinking biblically, and to do their own theology.

If the truths one preaches never first apply to the one preaching, it will be difficult to effectively apply the same truths to those who are listening. Therefore, a rigorous study schedule is of the utmost priority. Pastors must study to perform faithful exegesis. Pastors must study to settle the confusion between biblical passages. Pastors must study to apply the truth in Scripture to themselves first. Pastors must study to see how Scripture can mold them into the person of Jesus Christ. Pastors must study to exhort those in the congregation to such a standard of living that is conveyed from God’s authoritative and infallible Word. The purpose of studying is to show how even the pastor’s life when he is not at church is an act of worship to God. Therefore, the pastor must emulate this worshipful attitude and persona within the study each week.

A Plea to Preach Your Own Sermons

Because the purpose of studying is such a personal act of worship, the way in which one prepares and constructs a sermon is important for pastoral study. The importance of preaching your own sermons and not copying from another is a direct result of one’s belief about the preeminence of preaching as worship to God.[10] The simple fact that a pastor would preach someone else’s sermon to the congregation shows the uncertainty of calling within their own life. Otherwise, they would preach and aim to do it with faithfulness and courage, and, most importantly, through their own words. This act, however, is often an intentional act from pastors.[11] One author declares, “There can be no accidental plagiarism any more than there can be accidental bank robbery!”[12]

One specific way in which pastors tend to overlook the necessity of preaching one’s sermons is a lack of applying the biblical truths of their sermons to themselves first. Ignoring such an act is the final stroke before a pastor resorts to someone else’s material. The Puritans expressed such importance in application.[13] Pastors must return to such practice of prioritizing self-examination! The days are evil, Paul says in Ephesians 5:16, so we should “make the best use of [our] time.” Making the best use of our time does not allow for pre-written sermons from other pastors because of misguided priorities (that is, prioritizing other things over study and self-examination). It is a disloyal, unfaithful injustice to the Lord Jesus when pastors make excuses to avoid sermon construction and preparation.[14]

Yet, the most important aspect to this plea is understanding the limit placed on worship when one is preparing to preach. True biblical worship is not brought about by pious actions and behavior. Instead, biblical worship is brought about through the heart.[15] Worship involves the affections and so must our preaching. As it was defined in chapter 3, this is the essence of experiential preaching that was emulated by the Puritan preachers. The pastor must align his own affections to the biblical warrants of which he will proclaim, then implore those under his preaching to do the same with their affections, as well.[16]

As pastors are they must prepare for this task by understanding the worshipful nature of sermon construction and sermon delivery.


[1] Piper, Expository Exultation, 160.

[2] Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 39-40.

[3] Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 71.

[4] David Wells does a wonderful job explaining the necessity of what it means to think biblically in a world that is post-Christian. To study the problem of postmodern thought in Wells, see David F. Well. The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008).

[5] Peterson, Long Obedience, 57.

[6] McGrath, Mere Discipleship, 112.

[7] Beeke, Reformed Preaching, 70.

[8] Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 92.

[9] “The Place of Biblical Theology” The Old Testament Student, Vol. 3, no. 6 (Feb. 1884), 200.

[10] For a short, but fruitful discourse regarding preaching your own sermons, see Scott M. Gibson. Should We Use Someone Else’s Sermon?: Preaching in a Cut-and-Paste World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008).

[11] I would be amiss to claim that every pastor does such a thing intentionally, for young ministers with no experience may have not been taught proper ways to construct a sermon. However, most pastors who commit such an act, I believe, are one’s who do so intentionally because our age in immediacy has brought about laziness in the processes of study and sermon preparation.

[12] Randy Corn, “A Few Borrowed Words About Plagiarism” Free Will Baptist Theology, accessed December 9, 2019, https://www.fwbtheology.com/a-few-borrowed-words-about-plagiarism/.

[13] Gibson, Should We Preach Someone Else’s Sermon?, 65.

[14] To read on about excuses preachers make, Gibson’s book, Should We Preach Someone Else’s Sermon?, lists a few. See, Gibson, Should We Preach Someone Else’s Sermon?, 61-63.

[15] Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 257.

[16] Ferguson, “Preaching as Worship,” 99.

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