I think it is very fair to ask what motivates and constrains a pastor in crafting a message that will be shared from the pulpit. These are different from the motivations and constraints I experience in small group and Bible study settings. As a pastor, when I am preaching the Word of God, I am not free to speculate, at least not about the main teaching point. My Calling as a Minister of Word and Sacrament imbues me with profound responsibility to teach what is right and helpful and certain. My opinions and speculations do not satisfy the test. In 2019, I shared a couple of reflections on what motivated and constrained my messages. Of course, the answers below are terribly incomplete. I would ask for a measure of grace as you consider the below. If you are concerned about what may be lacking, I would be happy to talk with you. I suspect I would agree with you.
Reflection 1. Purpose of Preaching. I think of three objectives when preparing a sermon. I wish the message to glorify God; edify listeners; and fortify (equip) believers. Even so, the audience must always be considered. What are their circumstances, their felt needs, and their level of spiritual maturity? Based on the audience, I try to craft my message to have one of three flavors: evangelizing; discipling; or pastoring. In a church that is full of seekers, the pastor should be especially mindful of evangelizing. In a church that is full of young families, the pastor should be mindful of the need to disciple. In a church that is full of older folks or going through a tough season the pastor should be mindful of the need to pastor. So far in my calling to this church family, I have generally favored pastoring over discipling and discipling over evangelizing. Still, when there are special services, that will attract people who are not familiar with the Good News, I feel an obligation to present the Gospel. This is true for funerals, for weddings, and for special holidays. Such was the case this last Sunday, Easter, where the Gospel message was preached out of Acts 10:34-48.
Reflection 2. Evangelism. It was a privilege and pleasure to preach this year’s Easter message out of Acts 10:34-48. The main teaching point was that, TO RECEIVE GOD’S BLESSING, WE NEED AN ATTITUDE OF YIELDING. [This is not an absolute and categorical truth, but it is true enough to be a helpful adage.] The truth of this principle is exampled in the story of Peter preaching the Gospel to Cornelius and his household. This text contains a terrific outline of what should be worked into an evangelistic dialogue (perhaps over the course of time or perhaps all at once, as in the case of Peter and Cornelius). Here are four evangelistic points we find in this Acts account:
Who is Jesus? – Amongst other things, Jesus is Lord of all! He is also the means of peace with God (Verse 36). [The Trinity might be better left for discipling rather than evangelizing. Peter does not identify Jesus as the Son of God, but he does work God, Jesus and Holy Spirit into the Gospel message.]
What is the proof that Jesus is Lord of all, etc.? – Jesus preached the Good News, healed people, and cast out demons (Verse 38). All the prophets testify to Jesus as Messiah (Verse 43). God resurrected Jesus after his death to continue to verify his earthly ministry (Verse 40). [We might want to add that Jesus taught that he was God’s pre-existent, forever Son and that many tried to kill him for this claim.]
What did Jesus accomplish? – Jesus makes peace with God a possibility. Everyone who yields to Jesus has his/her sins forgiven (Verse 43). [We call this Salvation. A lot could be added here (e.g., Jesus makes adoption by our heavenly Father possible).]
What is Jesus’ current status? God has appointed Jesus as judge of the living and the dead (Verse 42). This is related to being Lord of all. [A lot could be added here (e.g., Jesus lives within us and Jesus is now interceding for us before the Father).]
The main point, TO RECEIVE GOD’S BLESSING, WE NEED AN ATTITUDE OF YIELDING, can be one of evangelism, discipleship, and pastoring. It is simple enough to be grasped by those without Bible knowledge or church culture. It is something that each Christ-follower needs to reflect on, especially when trying to go deeper with Christ. And sometimes, when we are suffering, this question may help us to find Christ’s comfort, as we learn to “let go and let God.”