It was Arthur W. Pink who wrote:
The great work of the pulpit is to press the authoritative claims of the Creator and Judge of all the earth—to show how short we have come of meeting God’s just requirements, to announce His imperative demand of repentance. . . . It requires a “workman” and not a lazy man—a student and not a slothful one—who studies to “show himself approved unto God” (2 Tim. 9:15) and not one who seeks the applause and the shekels of men.[i]
Men who preach the word have a divinely important job. When he works hard, rightly divides the word, and leads you well, it’s normal to want to thank your teaching-pastor. Especially after a sermon that touched your heart.
But instead of meeting him at the door with the usual, “That was a great one…Thanks!”, try this on for size: “Pastor, I’ll live that truth this week!”
So why is a flock who lives the sermon better than all the high-fives, hugs, and hand-shakes? Because your pastor loves you more than he loves your praise.
If he is a godly man, he’ll want to know if his sermon terribly missed the point of the text (pretty rare with hard working preachers) or if he misquoted Scripture (everybody’s missed a versed before), but your gratitude for a job well done is not what God’s man is seeking after. It may spark his smile to know that his illustration helped you, he may appreciate your kind words about it “not being a long one”, but what he wants most is for you to live it – that’s why he does what he does.
Any real pastor will tell you that healthy sheep and a happy Master is the goal day in and day out.
All week he has been wholly devoted to Christ, preparing to preach Christ, and praying that you be strengthened in Christ. Want to show the teaching-pastor your gratitude? Look beyond him, and look to Christ as the object of your affections and thanksgiving.
That’s what drives the man behind the pulpit.
Speaking of a preacher’s motivation, the great 19th century pastor, Phillip Brooks, wrote:
Nothing but fire kindles fire. To know in one’s whole nature what it is to live by Christ; to be His, not our own; to be so occupied with gratitude for what He did for us and for what He continually is to us that His will and His glory shall be the sole desires of our life . . . that is the first necessity of the preacher.[ii]
In a world of church-surveys, hiring committees, and congregations who vote after battle-royal “preach-offs” by two pastoral candidates, the job of a preacher is treated like a career in people pleasing.
The truth is, preachers don’t need to worry about impressing people with their catchy delivery, but rather, their giftedness to clearly deliver the God’s Word, and the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s power through that Word in the hearts of the people.
Nothing fires up a preacher more than knowing that people are ready to go live the truth he just preached. A “thank you” may be well-intentioned, but your pastor will lay his head to rest not on your gratitude for the sermon on Sunday, but your fervency in the Holy Spirit’s power to help you live the sermon on Monday.
This weekend, don’t worry about saying, “Thank you.” Focus on passionately living the sermon.
[i] A. W. Pink, “Preaching – False And True,” http://gracebbc.dyndns.org:81/FTP_Root/BaptistVoiceInRomania/Articles/Miscellaneous/Preaching-FalseAndTrue.htm.
[ii] Philips Brooks, Lectures On Preaching (London: REPRINT by Forgotten Books, 2015), 38.