Leaders don’t just lead; they lead somewhere. There are four roads you need to pave for your congregation through expositional leadership.
By R. Scott Pace and Jim Shaddix
Leadership implies a destination. Leaders don’t just lead; they lead somewhere. And Christian leaders—especially those who shepherd God’s people as pastors—are tasked with the awesome responsibility of leading people to the most significant places they will ever travel—places that are spiritual instead of physical, eternal instead of temporal.
Pastor, this year the people in your charge will depend on you to lead them to these places. And since God has ordained His supernatural Word to be the primary agent His Spirit uses to equip people for the journey ahead (2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 2:2), it will be through your faithful exposition of the Scripture that they will be able to arrive at the right destinations. The following are four of the roads they need you to pave for them through your expositional leadership.
1. The way of wisdom
Your people will deal with a lot of unforeseen challenges in 2024. They will face financial difficulties, marriage and parenting struggles, educational and vocational decisions, cultural pressures, medical complications, and so much more.
You can spend your sermonic time slots trying to put band-aids on their hurts, attempting to answer all their questions, or working hard to offer them practical suggestions to get them over the hurdle of the week. Or, you can give them the wisdom that will lay a solid foundation on which they can build and lead a firmly grounded, joyfully content, spiritually fruitful, and consistently prosperous life. The Psalmist exclaimed:
How happy is the one who does notPsalm 1:1-3, CSB
walk in the advice of the wicked
or stand in the pathway with sinners
or sit in the company of mockers!
Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams
that bears its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
When you interpret God’s Word with integrity and expound it for your people by the power of His Spirit, you will shape their worldview in such a way that equips them to approach every day and every situation through the lens of the gospel and with divine wisdom from above (James 3:13-18).
To appeal to an ancient proverb, you will teach them to fish and feed them for a lifetime as opposed to giving them a fish and feeding them for a day. Expounding the Bible diligently and faithfully will prepare them with everything they need to navigate all of life in the way of wisdom.“Expounding the Bible diligently and faithfully will prepare your congregation with everything they need to navigate all of life in the way of wisdom.” — @rscott_pace, @JimShaddix Click To Tweet
2. The road of re-creation
The Christian life is an ongoing process of being re-created into the imago Dei, the image of God. Your people were set on this course in eternity past (Romans 8:29). They were shaped for this destiny when God created humanity (Genesis 1:26-27). And it’s to this end that they ultimately will arrive when Jesus returns (1 John 3:1-3; Revelation 22:1-4). Their travel down the road, then, is a process of “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18b, CSB).
As they make progress in throwing off their former way of life, your faithful instruction from God’s Word will equip them to “put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24, CSB) and to be “renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator” (Colossians 3:10, CSB). Likewise, when they face the trials of life, “even though [their] outer person is being destroyed, [their] inner person is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16, CSB).
So, in the coming year, every time you expose them to God’s intended meaning in a passage of Scripture you will be making a deposit in the re-creative process and leading them along the course of Christlikeness, a course that involves both the journey and the destination for which they were made.
3. The path of purpose
Many Christians spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out their purpose in life. Much of the time these endeavors are limited to things like vocational and career choices, spiritual gift discovery, and specific ministry callings. The Bible, however, isn’t silent on the issue of the believer’s purpose in life.
Before Jesus ascended back to the Father, He told His disciples why He was leaving them behind. His disciples thought their purpose was to help Him usher in the physical kingdom on earth (Acts 1:6-7). Instead, He said: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, CSB; cf. Matthew 28:18-20). That’s the reason He left them—and us—on the planet.
The Bible articulates this missional purpose from Genesis (e.g., Genesis 12:1-3) to Revelation (e.g., Revelation 21:22-26). As you faithfully teach the Scriptures, your people must understand that their fundamental identity as God’s people is for the purpose of proclaiming “the praises of the one who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9b, CSB).
Faithful exposition exhorts them to live in a “crooked and perverted generation” and equips them to “shine like stars in the world” (Philippians 2:15, CSB). So, when you rightly expound the Bible, you prepare and motivate your people on the path of fulfilling their life purpose of leveraging their lives for the sake of gospel advancement.“Our hope tells us that this world is not our home but that there’s another one coming when Jesus returns to finalize our salvation and usher us into His eternal presence ….” — @rscott_pace, @JimShaddix Click To Tweet
4. The highway of hope
In recent years, our world has experienced seismic shifts in cultural and societal norms as well as unprecedented decay in moral standards. Children in schools are indoctrinated with sexual perversion and alternative lifestyles. Pornography has become commonplace on television, websites, advertisements, video games, and even in people’s dress in public. Crime and violence are exercised boldly and brashly in plain sight for everyone to see. Judeo-Christian roots that were once applauded are now assaulted. And hints of physical persecution of Christians are beginning to surface on our shores.
This rapid and massive decline in ethical, moral, and spiritual standards has left many people with a sense of hopelessness. Christians who read and study their Bibles, however, shouldn’t be surprised or deterred. Jesus and the apostolic writers told us it was coming (e.g., Matthew 5:10-12; 24:9-14; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 3:14).
Additionally, the New Testament is replete with reminders and assurances of the hope we have in Christ Jesus (e.g., 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Ephesians 1:15-19). Our hope tells us that this world is not our home but that there’s another one coming when Jesus returns to finalize our salvation and usher us into His eternal presence where neither His kingdom nor its citizens will ever decay.
Your careful and consistent exposition of God’s Word is the most critical means of keeping this hope on your people’s radar and nurturing their expectancy for it. As they hear the voice of God through the intended meaning of Bible passages, they are reminded that they have a sure hope in what Christ has purchased for us in both His death and resurrection (1 Peter 1:3-5). Moreover, their faithful embrace of this hope has practical effects on the way they live their daily lives and remain faithful to the gospel and its advancement along this highway to heaven (Romans 5:3-5, 8:23-25).“Through your exposition of God’s Word, you get to lead your congregation on the most exciting and significant journey anyone could ever travel. Lead them well this year!” — @rscott_pace, @JimShaddix Click To Tweet
A final challenge
Pastor, yours is a weighty and wonderful task. It’s weighty because you’re responsible for shepherding the souls of your people for which you one day will have to give an account (Hebrews 13:17). But this task is wonderful in that over time you get to see the beauty and glory of the gospel fleshed out in the lives of the people you shepherd. Through your exposition of God’s Word, you get to lead them on the most exciting and significant journey anyone could ever travel. Lead them well this year!
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.
R. Scott Pace
Scott serves as provost and associate professor of preaching and pastoral ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Preaching by the Book, Pastoral Theology, Exalting Jesus in Colossians & Philemon in the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series, and Calling Out the Called.