In Acts 6:4, we read these words from the Apostles: “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” This passage has led me to reflect on my priorities as a pastor.
In the first place, the Apostles say that their responsibility is to pray. Our Lord teaches us that before dawn, the first thing He did was spend time in communion with His Father. He took time away just to be with Him—nothing else. We, too, must take time just to be with our heavenly Father.
Second, the Apostles say that they are to minister the word. Following their example, pastors must spend time in exegesis. That is, we must study God’s word so that we can take out from the text only that which the Lord intends to tell us. We must work hard in the study of the passage and pray through the passage. We must carefully inspect it and hide it in our hearts.
Only when we study the text in order to take from the text what God has to say, and not what we have to say, will we be able to “Preach the word; [to be] be ready in season and out of season; [to] reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). As I recently heard from one pastor, “Go where the text goes. Say what the text says. Promise what the text promises. Warn where the text warns.”
Third, we must then seek the pearl of great price. We must seek Christ personally, the One about whom the Scriptures speak, in whom “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
Fourth, we must humble ourselves prior to preaching. “For though the LORD is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar” (Psalm 138:6). We must recognize that we are preparing to deliver God’s Word. It is His Word that teaches and instructs. It is His Word that corrects and admonishes. His Word sanctifies. His Word “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). His Word is pure, “refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). His Word rejoices the heart (Psalm 19:8). His Word restores the soul (Psalm 19:7).
Finally, we must exercise self-discipline. Preaching the Scriptures requires determination to devote sufficient time to study. As Lucas Aleman has said, “Preparation requires study both day and night.”