Following my post yesterday, let me underline that in no way do I want to diminish the significance of preaching for bringing people to faith, challenging vision and building community. I see it as God's essential way of communicating truth for life. We have a speaking God who uses preachers! When you are called to be a preacher it is the highest calling. Yet, God also calls us to be pastors. Indeed 'pastor' seems to be the preferred title for Christian ministers in most churches I visit. However, being pastor involves preaching and more! Preaching cannot do it all!
When the student group discussed trying to balance the pastoral tasks of loving and caring for their people with finding quiet hours in the study, a couple of vital points emerged. First, out of that loving and caring comes the contextualizing of the preaching. It is said that the best listeners make the best preachers - not only listeners to God's word but to his people. Identifying in the cut-and-thrust of a congregation's life grounds preaching in the real world. We mentioned the value of preachers who periodically spend time with their congregation at their places of work. Nothing quite perks up illustration and application than spending a few hours with hearers in their daily lives.
Second, preaching preparation does need times of quiet, especially at the beginning when you immerse in God's word. But the wonder of being a pastor is that preparation is a continuous drip feed as you go through the week. The sermon Scripture should be in mind as you drive around, visit the sick, lead group meetings. Structuring sermon ideas should be fermenting in everything we see and do, ever alert to the 'voices' of culture, congregation and worship as well as personal experience. So, when it is a difficult week with two funeral services and a tough critic to deal with as well as several seriously ill people, the sermon at the end is spoken out of that community experience into that community experience. It's real because the pastor's life is real.