Vol. 5, No. 3
~ Page 13 ~
I make no secret of it -- my favorite meal consists of fried potatoes, yellow cornbread and home-cooked pinto beans. Oh yeah, and a slice of white onion. [Ladies, if you have ever wondered about what to fix for the preacher the next time he comes over for dinner, now you know. Pinto Beans.]
Having become something of a connoisseur of pintos over the years, I've made a significant discovery -- beans cooked quickly aren't fit to eat. It's true! Good beans have to soak overnight in water, then be boiled, then be left to simmer slowly in a pot on the stove. We're talking hours. And that's also why I'm not fond of store-bought, canned beans. In my opinion, they aren't worth the aluminum can and paper label that encases them. [Now that I think about it, that's pretty much what they taste like -- aluminum and paper. Their texture is generally too hard, and they have a decidedly artificial flavor.] Food processing factories leave out the most important ingredient in good beans -- time. You just can't hurry good pinto beans.
Gospel sermons are a lot like good pinto beans -- they require time. They need hours of mental industry and preparation. A preacher can't "cook up" a lesson late Saturday night before he goes to bed any more than you can microwave a bag of pinto beans. If a congregation expects a regular diet of well-balanced spiritual meals (John 6:27), then the preacher has to devote large blocks of time to his studies each week. Sound, Bible-based sermons have to soak, then be boiled, and then allowed to simmer slowly in recesses of his heart and mind. Passages have to be explored, Greek and Hebrew words have to be researched, commentaries have to be read, relevant illustrations have to be chosen, thoughts have to be organized, immediate and remote contexts have to be considered, cultures have to be reflected upon, ancient concepts have to be pondered, etc. And I haven't even mentioned prayer yet!
Brethren who maintain that their preacher spends too much time in his study fail to appreciate the true nature of his work. A preacher is a thinker first and foremost of all! He has to "chew on" and ingest the Word himself before he can bring it to the table of the Lord (cf. Ezekiel 3:1ff). Paul told Timothy, "...Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine...meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them...take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you" (1 Timothy 4:13b, 15a, 16.)
Are you hungry (1 Peter 2:2) for real food? Do you want to be nourished (1 Timothy 4:6) spiritually? Is your diet prompting growth (Hebrews 5:12-14) and maturity in the inner man? Canned beans aren't fit to eat; neither are "canned" sermons. Encourage your preacher in his studies. Insist that he be a student. Make sure that he has sufficient time behind his desk, with his Bible, books and computer. When he eats well, so do you! "Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart…" (Jeremiah 15:16.)