By Steven Blake
One of the disciplines I have in my walk with God is to listen to some of the great preachers of our day.
One of my favorites to listen to is David Jeremiah. His messages are always encouraging, challenging, and timely.
I recently finished listening to his “Sheltering in God” series, which brought me great encouragement in these trying days.
It made me think about how we as ministers are handling this time where the church and the world are experiencing a difficult season—in both a corporate and an individual sense.
How are we demonstrating encouragement from our pulpits? Here are five practices—and I’m sure there are more—that have come alive for me in these recent days.
1. Preach a biblically positive series.
Notice I didn’t simply say a “positive series” but rather a “biblically positive.” I’m not referring to feel-good, itching-ear messages, but ones that encourage and challenge the believer in their daily walk.
During a difficult season which affects us all in some way or another, the church needs to be a refuge for the weary. I’m currently preaching a series on heaven.
What I’ve discovered is that it’s not only an encouragement for the congregation, but that it has lifted my spirits as I focus on the future reality waiting for me.
While it’s comforting it also challenges us in our walk and witness to a world that needs the assurance of the hope we have.
2. Preach without an ax to grind.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but with all that is happening in our culture—the pandemic, civil unrest, and the coming elections—frustration levels are higher than normal. At times this causes consternation where it might not in other seasons.
Words and opinions can be said from anxious hearts which may not be pleasant to hear. I recall on one occasion a church member made the comment, “It’s okay for me to get angry but not you because you’re a minister.”
We too, as preachers of the gospel, are experiencing the same pressures others are feeling.
Our response, however, is to never use the pulpit as an opportunity to speak against those who might irritate or anger us. We need to always demonstrate love to those we shepherd.
Pray for those rather than preach at ones who might be your proverbial thorn in the flesh for that week. The Holy Spirit can do a much better job of conviction than any ill-timed words you might speak from the pulpit.
3. Remind them of the promises of God.
I truly love God’s promises. I’ve seen it claimed there were over 5,000 promises of God in Scripture. I’ve never counted them all myself, but I know there are thousands.
You don’t need to read far in Scripture to find a promise God has made. The amazing truth is that God isn’t like man.
He always keeps His promises. He never goes back on His Word. I attempt in most every sermon to bring remind our church of a promise God has made to His children.
The fellowship you shepherd needs to hear of God’s promises, especially during difficult seasons. It brings hope, peace, and comfort in an otherwise unstable world.
4. Assure them of God’s character.
We all need assurances at times. The difference in our preaching is our assurances are not in ourselves, but in the attributes of God.
As we deliver the Word of God may it always be immersed in the character of God.
Share with them that because God is holy He will one day judge evil.
Remind them that because of His love, nothing can separate us from God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
Dwell on His faithfulness to us; no matter the storms of life His faithfulness wins in the end (Romans 8:28).
You get the idea. The more we direct our church’s attention on God’s attributes the difficulties in life will pale in comparison to His greatness.
5. Tell your church frequently of your love for them.
How often does your congregation hear the words, “I love you” from the pulpit? These three simple words can disarm fears, frustrations, and anxieties.
Every time I tell my church I love them I see the smiles come across the congregation as if a wave of joy just hit every seat.
As believers, we’re the hands and feet of Jesus and when we genuinely demonstrate love to our congregation it displays that we are truly His disciples.
As ministers it’s a reminder to them that as their shepherds our leadership is best manifest in our love for them.
No doubt you can share other practices that could help many of us. If you have an opportunity share some of the principles you’ve placed in your preaching ministry, do so in the comments section.
As you preach the Word faithfully do so with a shepherd’s heart that conveys the love of our Chief Shepherd.
Steven is the pastor at First Baptist Church in Bloomingdale, Ga. He is married to DeLynn, and they are the proud parents of three daughters and 11 grandchildren.