Shepherd’s Pie -- By: Tim Bayly
Cbmw’s Executive Director Examines Issues Of Critical Interest To Pastors
Leadership is by nature strategic and good leaders take care to weigh the consequences of each direction before choosing one. Probably the most strategic act of pastoral leadership is the selection of a sermon text and theme for each Lord’s Day. Fresh out of seminary with nothing in my memory addressing this matter, I struggled with this decision week after week. I’d sit down with a Bible leafing through it until inspiration hit; often it took hours. Six months out of seminary I was exhausted.
At that time I was serving in a mainline denomination and I gathered from incidental conversations at my presbytery meetings that other pastors selected their texts from the lectionary, a liturgical planning resource containing a three year cycle of weekly Scripture readings. This seemed as good a method as any so I began to follow the lectionary myself, letting it determine my weekly sermon text and Scripture lessons.
Thinking the lectionary might protect my congregation from the bias of my own selection habits, I plunged into its use with enthusiasm. One immediate benefit was the steady diet of texts from the Old Testament it fed us. This helped me see the chronic neglect of this part of Scripture in the evangelical world of my youth. Also, I appreciated the discipline of reading from the Psalter each week and found these readings a help to me in my own worship. So using the lectionary wasn’t all bad.
Yet over time I discovered a fatal flaw as it became clear to me that the lectionary consistently avoided the unpopular aspects of God’s character—His justice, holiness, and wrath. It also seemed to hide Scripture’s call to repentance. In time, I came to the conclusion I must leave the lectionary behind. How could I, for instance, allow those who believed in the moral influence theory of the atonement to hide the blood of Christ from His sheep for whom it is life itself? Or how could I be a party to their intentional obscuring of the existence of eternal fire in hell or the necessity of repentance as a part of God’s work of salvation?
So again I changed my selection habits, but this time I found a procedure that works. Now I preach through books of Scripture. It’s been good discipline and it certainly is a relief not to have to agonize over the decision each week.
Yet even this helpful discipline is little protection against a grave temptation facing men in pastoral ministry today— the temptation to avoid those passages of Scripture which explicitly address our own sins and the sins of our congregations.
Notice, I said our sins—not those of the liberal congregation across the street,...
Click here to subscribe