Shepherds have to feed the sheep. That should be obvious, but there are a lot of pastors who are not feeding the sheep. You cannot exaggerate how important it is for the pastors to feed the sheep. You just cannot overestimate how important this is. Your preaching to the gathering of the saints is so important – it is one of your primary roles, your key functions as a shepherd, to ensure the sheep are fed.
Earlier we discussed leading the sheep and how important that is, but you cannot lead people you do not feed. Some people are trying to lead people they don’t feed, and they become controlling and harsh. If you feed people, they will follow and your church will grow. If you give people good food, your church will grow. Some people might not like the food, some people aren’t sheep they are goats – let them go, but keep feeding the people and you will attract a flock.
Parents have authority over their children because they feed them. When you leave home, get a job and feed yourself, your parents authority diminishes. Feeding is so important for leading, so important for pastoring. Jesus told Peter three times in a row: “Feed My Sheep”. Feeding is vital.
Every pastor must be a preacher and your preaching is where you feed the sheep. This is key. And we are living in the age Paul warns Pastor Timothy about:
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim. 4.3-4)
People seem to rather go to a service where they are anointed with oil, where they are given a prophetic word, where there is gold dust and barking dogs, where they are taught about secular psychology and fables made up by men rather than listen to the Word. The temptation to reduce the preaching of the Word and replace with entertainment. Some pastors are preaching less than 6-10 minutes on a Sunday morning. That is not feeding the sheep a meal, that is a bag of Doritos! That is not a meal! That will not give the sheep strength to receive healing, to advance the kingdom, to enjoy their career, to love their families. You need to feed the sheep. You must preach the Word!
Here are three things I believe are vital to a successful feeding ministry:
1. Preparation. You must prepare what you are going to feed to ensure the sheep get a healthy, living and balanced diet. You cannot just walk into the pulpit and say what you like. There has been a move recently to see notes as fleshly, but taking the time to prepare is never fleshly – it’s godly. I preach in months – each month has a theme that fits into the theme for the year. I am all about building something into people’s minds. Me just shouting about my hobby horse is not good enough. You need to plan, research, prepare. What Scriptures are you using, in what order, what is the point you are making.
2. Keep to the point. People like rabbit trails and side points occasionally. Imagine they are like salt and pepper. Just a little to give it flavour, but if you are continually going off point you haven’t prepared enough. It takes me a whole day at least to prepare a message. Lazy preachers and lazy pastors don’t prepare the food and don’t season it. They are feeding their church Iceland frozen chicken nuggets and wonder why the church are spiritually malnourished.
You are called to feed the sheep. You are called to prepare the best for them. Choose your points, meditate on your points, consider how the sermon is structured. Introduce the sermon by telling the people what you preached last week and how it links to this week, tell the people what your points are and where you are going with the message – it’s a good habit to help you keep on track. Then preach. Then conclude well. Prepare and plan how you are going to end. Will you end with an appeal to change, will you end with an illustration that they are going to take away? You need to decide before hand.
Of course, someone will tell you that planning is not spiritual, that you should just open your mouth and let it flow. There are times when that is what to do. There are occasions when the Lord will lead you a different way. But mostly when people do that they ramble, they drift, they make no clear point, but rather a hundred different little points none of which impact anyone’s life for the better. Here’s a revelation: the Holy Spirit can guide the planning! Let your planning be Spirit-led and you find you don’t have to “go with the flow of the moment” in the pulpit so much any more!
I think some preachers need a big sign at the back of the church that says “WHAT IS THE POINT?” so when they are preaching they know they are making a point!
3. Let the sheep feed from you. Jesus said something that requires a lot of consideration: if you don’t eat my flesh you are not part of me. Sheep need to feed on the shepherd. What do I mean? You need to let them see and let them hear that the Word works for you. If you are teaching healing, talk about a time you laid hands on someone and they got healed. Let the people see you are talking about what you know. When you preach on loyalty and are calling for a commitment to the church, let the people know how committed you are. You need to be careful doing this because your goal is to preach the gospel and teach the kingdom, but principles without practical application wash over people’s head.
At our summer conference once, we raised an offering and it was very low. It was just under £300 which was very low for the amount of people in the room, and low compared to the costs we needed to pay. In addition, I was the one who put in £200 into the offering. So I got up and I told people that I believe in this conference and that if I could put in more money than the rest of the room put together there was a problem. We received a second offering that came to a lot higher, and I have heard many testimonies of people who received a great return from that offering. By showing people that I work the Word, I am encouraging – which literally means giving courage to – people to work the same principles.
Remember your examples are not the message: they are the encouragement to get the message. You teach the Word, but in teaching the Word you have to show that you believe it’s integrity and you are not preaching what you do not practice, but rather you preach what you practice.