Baptism Sunday reminded me of the power of prayer when it comes to preaching the Word of God. The duty of regularly preaching God’s Word is one of the weightiest yet most rewarding tasks a man can devote his life to. Sermon preparation takes diligent study, clear thinking, and devoted writing. But preaching goes beyond the mechanics of writing a sermon. The weight of spiritually leading a congregation lays heavy on a pastor’s heart.
Pastors should preach toward a response. There is a tension between the craft of delivering a sermon and the reality that God is the one who moves hearts toward response. This can be difficult for a pastor to grapple with. When people do not respond, it’s easy to feel discouraged, defeated, or even take the blame.
There is no greater tool we have that will move people toward a response than calling upon God through prayer. This was the case for us at Christ Community on September 8, 2019. For three weeks, our staff prayed, fasted, and begged God to move people toward obedience. We planned, strategized, made phone calls, and asked those who had not been baptized to take the step.
I asked God for fifteen people to obey and be baptized on September 8. As I stepped up to preach, I felt the weight of the moment. I knew where I was going and what I was going to preach, yet I knew it was all up to God. All I could do was faithfully preach the Word, invite people to respond, and trust Him to bring the fruit. On that morning, we saw fifteen people trust Jesus by faith and be baptized.
One couple had been coming to our church for four months. God had been working in their hearts for some time, and Kris and Jill left a local Catholic church in search of something else. After meeting Kris and hearing his story, I began praying for him and Jill to come to know the Lord. On Baptism Sunday, both Kris and Jill stood up to say they had surrendered their life to Jesus and wanted to follow Him into baptism!
Before getting baptized, they hugged me, and with tears in her eyes, Jill said, “Thank you for caring enough about us to give us the opportunity to know Christ, to know the true Gospel, and then to identify with Him through baptism.”
The Hopkins’ story was just one of fifteen that day at Christ Community. Since Baptism Sunday, we’ve baptized ten more people, and we have several others lined up for the rest of the year. Baptism Sunday started something exciting for our church. I believe it started a movement toward a new season of growth and outreach at Christ Community.
As the lead pastor at Christ Community, I’m praying for God to continue to move in and through the preaching of His Word weekly in such a way that consistently brings glory to God. Yes, there will be some Sundays where I see no fruit, but I am more committed than ever to faithfully preach Christ and call people of all walks of life to respond to His invitation of salvation. Prayerfully, we’ll see hundreds more walk through the waters of baptism in obedience to our King.
If there’s one thing I could encourage pastors to do, it’s not to read another good book or commentary, but to pray. We should be spending significant time praying for our sermons and the response times. Great movements of God always begin with desperate prayer.