Preaching Isn’t Really Work??

That’s in essence what a precious church member said to me one day. I am not sure how we got on the subject of pastors and preaching. But there we were standing in the middle of the hallway having this discussion.

I have come to discover that that member’s understanding of what we do as pastors is not a rarity. Many people share the same sentiment. It usually goes something like this:

“So do you mean to tell me you get paid to simply study the Bible and come up with sermons? That doesn’t sound much like work to me.”

“Is that all you do is study and prepare sermons?”

“How hard can it really be to put together a sermon?”

If you are reading this and resonate with those viewpoints – that preaching isn’t really work – this post is for you.

In passing, let me assure you that we do more than just preach (or teach) as pastors. We counsel; perform weddings, funerals, baby, business, and house blessings; visit and pray for people who are sick; lead volunteers and/or staff; etc. And that’s just scratching the surface. But let’s just focus on the subject at hand: preaching.

Is preaching work? You better believe it is! Let’s explore two reasons. They are fairly simple to understand. Nothing complex.

1. Scripture says preaching and teaching is work

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he gives these instructions:

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and ‘ The laborer deserves his wages.'” (1 Timothy 5:17-18, ESV)

The primary focus of this text of Scripture deals with ensuring elders who rule well receive remuneration, which normally consists of money. But what I want to draw your attention to are the terms Paul associates with preaching and teaching in these two verses. Let’s look at the text again. I’ve highlighted the words for you.

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and ‘ The laborer deserves his wages.'” (1 Timothy 5:17-18, ESV)

The word labor in Greek is kopiao, which can also mean to toil or work hard. If God says preaching His word is work, then it’s work…for those who strive to do it well, that is.

2. Reality affirms preaching and teaching is work

Have you ever been privy to hear about or see a pastor’s or preacher’s individual sermon prep routine? Most have not. So, allow me to give you a glimpse into what that process generally looks like. Pastors/Preachers, undoubtedly, have different ways of going about preparing their messages. There are few different routes to get to the same destination. And yet, what follows, are some common sermon route markers that are situated along the road of preparation.  Although this process is in many ways static, it can be very fluid at times.

Route Marker #1 – Spend time praying over the sermon text (this is of course after the text has been selected; and there are various ways to going about doing that even)

We don’t just pray before we begin; we pray throughout the entire process.

Route Marker #2 – Read the text over and over again

To familiarize ourselves with the sermon text, we read it dozens of times, maybe even more. And occasionally we will read it from different versions of the Bible other than the one we study and/or preach from.

Route Marker#3 – Read the literary context of the text

This simply means we will read the verses before and/or after our selected text (this also demands that we broaden our scope and consider the context of the Bible book, the author’s other writings – where applicable, the Testament, and the Bible overall) to see if there is a connection to our primary text, to ascertain meaning of words, and to help us grasp the author’s train of thought, which, in part, aids us in understanding the sermon text.

Route Marker #4 – Study the sermon text in its original language

If it is an Old Testament text, then we look at the Hebrew. If it is a New Testament passage, then we journey over to Greek. We examine things like grammar, syntax, word definitions, and much more.

Route Marker #5 – Conduct a thorough background study

Here we research all things historical, cultural, geographical, social, religious, and political.

Route Marker #6 – Synthesize the research

Now we bring all of the pieces together to determine the meaning, truths, and principles of the text.

Route Marker #7 – Build the sermon

This various a bit from preacher to preacher. Some mentally form the sermon in their minds. Others draft an outline. While others write out (initial draft, edit, re-write) a full manuscript. Regardless of the method, fundamentally, each of us works to put together introductions, transition statements, body, illustrations, and the conclusion – the sermonic food elements we put on the plate as the spiritual entree to serve to the people of God.

Route Marker #8 – Internalize the sermon

Most of us rehearse our sermons, either in our minds or verbally to ourselves or maybe even to someone else. We marinate over the sermon not only for the purpose of proclaiming it to others but also for personal application.


For common people like myself, this whole process can take anywhere from 10 to 15 hours a week (and that’s probably on the conservative side). Keep in mind, that is just for one sermon. Now imagine if you had to preach Sunday morning and evening, and Wednesday evening. That’s three services requiring three individual sermons!

And, remember, there is still the leadership, administrative, and pastoral care responsibilities that we have to take care of; not to even mention spending time with our families (if married and with a kid or two).

So, next time, after you finish listening to your pastor(s) faithfully discharge his duty to rightly handle the word of truth in his preaching, would you say a prayer of thanks to God? And it wouldn’t hurt to communicate your appreciation to him for his diligent labor…because after all preaching is work.

Posted on October 22, 2014, in Preaching, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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