by Mike Winkler
Preaching is a privilege and a stewardship bestowed upon us by God (1 Cor. 4:1; cf. 1 Cor. 9:16-17; Eph. 3:2-7; Col. 1:25) [All scripture references are from the NASB unless otherwise stated]. And as stewards, “it is required … that one be found trustworthy“ [i.e. faithful (1 Cor. 4:2)]. Consequently, the “size” of the pulpit (or congregation) from which one preaches is inconsequential.
Preaching for any congregation, large or small, has multiple blessings and challenges. For example, the first blessing set forth when preaching for a “larger” congregation is the multiple resources readily available. These resources would include: (1) the “man-power” available and their willingness to be involved in the assorted ministry opportunities (Tit. 3:1, 8, 14), (2) the financial means to engage in the numerous ministries, missionary and evangelistic opportunities (1 Tim. 6:17-18), and (3) the potential physical facilities. However, with the many resources available [e.g. money, facilities], also come potential challenges. To illustrate, today, many of God’s children have so busied themselves and their families with multiple “activities” [e.g. secular, recreational, “church” related], that they find it easier to give more money as a substitute for their personal involvement.
A second blessing to mention when preaching for a “larger” congregation is the myriad of opportunities to mirror the example of Jesus in serving or ministering to others (Gal. 5:13; cf. Mt. 20:28; Jn. 13:3-17). For example, with greater financial resources available, it is possible for a congregation to have multiple ministers thereby offering additional open doors for ministry whereby members can use their multiple talents. However, with this humble desire to serve others comes the challenge of “turning inward” and serving only those in the church or local congregation (Gal. 6:10; 1 Thes. 3:12; 5:15).
A third blessing of preaching for a “larger” congregation is the opportunity to reach more people with the gospel [non-Christians and Christians]. However, with this blessing comes the personal tension and challenge of “fulfilling our ministry” thereby, pleasing God (2 Tim. 4:2, 5 plus 2 Cor. 5:9; Eph. 5:10) or pleasing men and fulfilling their expectations (Gal. 1:10; 1 Thes. 4:2 cf. Jn. 12:42-43; Mt. 6:1; Mk. 15:14-15).
Today, it is inconsequential whether we preach for a “larger” or “smaller” congregation. However, as preciously mentioned, what is important, as teachers of God’s word, is that we be found “trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2). Accordingly, to assist us in this goal, we turn our attention to the ministry of Jesus.
First, we see that Jesus, in his ministry, understood and pursued his responsibility to preach by affirming, “let us go … to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for” (Mk. 1:36-38; cf. 2 Tim. 4:2 plus 1 Cor. 9:16-17).
Second, while fulfilling his responsibility to preach, Jesus’ life and ministry shows that he: (a) had a social life [i.e. he made time for people (Jn. 2:1-11; 12:1-2; 19:26)], (b) set aside time to mentor others (Mk. 9:30-37) and (c) did not neglect his family (Jn. 2:12; 19:26).
Third, when studying the ministry of Jesus, we learn that his effectiveness, whether with one or the multitudes, was predicated upon his:
- Spending time with and nurturing his relationship with God (Mk. 1:35; Lk. 5:16; cf. Jas. 4:8; Jas. 1:2; 119:11, 97; Mt. 5:6; Col. 4:3; 1 Thes. 5:17)
- Understanding and accepting the fact that not every one would understand, appreciate, or support his efforts (Lk. 5:29-32; Mk. 3:20-21)
- Unwillingness to let the expectations of others determine or control his work (Mk. 1:35-39; Jn. 6:15)
- Resolve not to let the criticisms of others derail or distract him [i.e. he was not controlled or manipulated by criticism (Mt. 11:16-19; 16:21-23)
- Refusal to put himself in situations where he was rushed or in a hurry (Lk. 19:1-10; Mk. 10:46-52)
- Understanding of and making the time for personal rest (Mk. 6:30-32)
When our pilgrimage on this earth is over, the “size” of the congregation for which we preached will not be important. Rather, what will matter is, whether we were “trustworthy” with the stewardship given to us by God as gospel preachers (2 Tim. 4:2 plus 1 Cor. 4:1-2; 9:16-17; Col. 1:24-25)? Accordingly, may God bless all of us in our pursuits of this goal (Phil. 3:12-14).
Mike Winkler preaches for the Madison Church of Christ in Madison, Alabama. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.