By Luke Holmes
Some say there’s a German word for everything. The uniqueness of the German language allows words to be created that have a very specific meaning.
One of those words I learned recently is nagelbalken. That translates to “nail beam,” but it really means a competition in which participants compete against others to drive nails into a wooden beam.
It’s both a game of leisure and competition. And in many places in Germany it’s still a tradition at weddings.
Pastors also know something about trying to drive points home. But the tools that a pastor uses most often are words, not hammers.
When used correctly, the words of a sermon can be driven into the mind just like a nail into wood.
You’ve probably heard a sermon where the pastor drives the truth of the Scripture deeper and deeper into your mind.
In the hands of a master builder, a hammer and nail provide shelter, or create art, or build places of worship.
A powerful sermon can do greater things. The word of God is greater than any tool or weapon that is formed on the earth.
The word of God can raise the dead, restore marriages, and end addictions. And the preacher gets to stand up and share it.
Most pastors consider themselves to be able to hammer a point into the mind with one single blow, like a master builder with a hammer. But the mind can be tougher than the hardest of woods.
When we use preach and exposit the word of God we need to not be content to say something once and then move on.
The legendary professor Haddon Robinson said, “To nail a truth into the mind requires that it be hit several times.”
Those who preach God’s word often get so caught up in all that we want to say that the message becomes muddled and unclear.
We’ve heard sermons that only seem to hit the points with a glancing blow and don’t make the effort to fix truth in hearts and minds.
Other preachers hit a whole bunch of nails in only a little bit instead of pounding home one point until it can never be removed.
A master builder will tell you that one nail securely fastened is better than a dozen nails that made it halfway in.
In the same manner a sermon that makes one point clearly is better than one that makes three points poorly. A sermon isn’t a competition to see how many points the preacher can get across, like a nail driving competition.
The point of a sermon is to change hearts and minds through the power of God’s word and the risen Christ.
The more important the truth of Scripture, the more important it is for us to make sure that the message gets across.
Robinson notes the difference between application and exposition in the sermon as distinct ways to hammer the truth into the mind.
The experienced preacher knows how to use those tools to hammer that nail of truth into the heart of the hearer.
Unlike the builder though, the power of a preacher isn’t in his persona strength but in the Word of God he preaches. It is not the words of a pastor that convicts of sin, it’s the Holy Spirit through him.
The words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth remind us of that fact. Paul says he preached the word with fear and much trembling. His preaching was a demonstration of the power of God, not the wisdom of Paul.
In the same way, the ministry of the great preachers of the church like Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, or Chrysostom remind us that the power of God is demonstrated not through man’s intelligence or gifts but through hearts and minds that are completely devoted to him.
When the pastors preach, they should be sure that the tool they’re using has the power to change lives.
The pastor is not certain of their wisdom or intelligence. But the pastor who preaches can be sure they have the same tools God gave all those other famous preachers.
In the end the preacher isn’t the one swinging the hammer; they are the hammer. Every preacher is a tool in the hands of the Master Builder.
In the hands of the Father the weakest tool can be used to change hearts and lives forever.
LUKE HOLMES (@lukeholmes) is husband to Sara, father to three young girls, and pastor at First Baptist Church Tishomingo, Oklahoma, since 2011. He’s a graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and can be found online at LukeAHolmes.com.