I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus. . . preach the word — 2 Timothy 4:1–2
I have a confession to make: I love listening to sermons. Rather—I love listening to good sermons. The preaching of God’s word is, after all, the primary means he has ordained for the spiritual growth of his people. Alistair Begg has said that preaching is a means of pastoral care, and I can testify to that truth from many years of sitting under the preaching of the scriptures—both good and bad.
During the summer of 2020 and the pandemic shutdown of many of our churches, livestreaming became our means to participate in worship services on Sundays. Even though our own church already had livestream available before the pandemic, staying home on Sunday—as well as every day, for a while—left such a gaping hole in the Lord’s Day for me that I also tuned in to watch other pastors deliver their sermons. And I wasn’t alone. You probably also searched the web for online worship services. We watched or listened to our favorite living theologians, Ferguson, MacArthur, Begg, DeYoung. This variety, available at a click, enriched our spiritual lives at a time when we desperately needed encouragement from God’s word which the faithful shepherds of God’s people are uniquely able to deliver through the preaching of sermons.
Fast-forward two years, and once again I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to and watching a variety of godly men delivering Sunday sermons. But this time it’s because I’m a member of our church’s Pastoral Search Committee. As a committee member it’s literally my job to listen to other preachers. But Ferguson, MacArthur, Begg, and DeYoung haven’t applied for the job. So, I’m listening to Senior Pastors and Associate Pastors from small- to average-size churches who have applied for our open pastorate. Godly men who, week in and week out, labor over the scriptures to faithfully preach the word of God.
In one respect, listening to several sermons a day is time consuming and mentally draining. At the end of some days I feel like words are literally falling out of my ears and I couldn’t listen to anything else if my life depended on it.
But on the other hand, I’m incredibly blessed. While only the Lord knows if one of these men (or another who hasn’t yet applied) will be the shepherd of our church and responsible to the Great Shepherd for the care of my soul, even now they are feeding me by their preaching. Since I’m sitting at my desk in front of my computer instead of in a pew at church, I can even pause the preacher to take better notes! Thanks to the resources available through the internet, it’s possible to listen through whole chunks of a sermon series without needing to wait a week between each message. And while in the past I’ve heard sermons from some of the same books of the bible, I’m getting a fuller-orbed exploration of the scriptures than a single sermon can provide. Even the best sermon from Romans 8 or Isaiah 6 will never plumb entirely to the depths of that passage.
Yesterday morning while I read through my daily portion of scripture from the bible reading plan I’m following I came across a passage that was used as a supporting cross-reference in one of the many sermons I heard this week. My reading was enriched considering it in light of what the preacher had said.
None of these candidates for Senior Pastor have ever spoken at a Ligonier or TGC National Conference, but that’s not who we’re looking for. Among other things, we’re seeking a man who loves God, loves God’s word, and loves God’s people. A man who will faithfully give himself to feeding and tending the flock of God (John 21:15–17). We’re learning that there are a lot of faithful pastors who fit this description. But we’re seeking the shepherd God is calling to equip the saints of our church for the work of ministry, for building up our little portion of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God (Eph. 4:11–13). And we are prayerfully trusting that our good and wise Lord will enable us to recognize him when we find him.
In the meantime, please excuse me. I have more sermons to listen to.