Ministering Effectively to God’s People

By: Rev. Sam Harris; ©2000
A young pastor asks how to get beyond his seminary education and reach the people in his church and community. Rev. Harris’s advise to him is good for any believer who wants to be an effective witness to others.

Ministering Effectively to God’s People


I am a young pastor, just graduated from seminary this past spring and am now in my very first church. I learned a lot in seminary, including tools on how to study the Scripture, which was most helpful; they helped me to obtain the many resources that will also guide me in my ministry. A number of classes that I had were on preaching and its significance in the life of the church. I see preaching as one of the most important aspects of my calling to serve the Lord.

In these early months of my ministry, however, I seem to be struggling with communicating the gospel effectively—though I spend a great deal of time in prayer and preparation. I’m not really sure that the messages are reaching the people in order to meet their needs. Any helpful suggestions as I really want to be obedient to the Lord’s calling on my life?


What a great question! I wish I had asked it of someone when I first started in the ministry. A particular passage that has always been meaningful to me as a pastor, charged with the re­sponsibility of caring for God’s people, is found in John 21:15-17. This is the conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus’ first question to Peter was: “Do you love me more than these?” Jesus is establishing the “love and Lordship relationship.” Peter answers in the affirma­tive. Jesus then tells Peter to (1) tend His lambs, (2) shepherd His sheep, and (3) tend my sheep. No doubt, you understand the role of a Shepherd—and that’s important! I sense from your question that that’s what you desire to be—a faithful shepherd to your flock.

You also understand that your role as pastor is to “equip the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God…” (Eph. 4:12-13a). “Equip” is a Greek word used in surgery for the setting of broken bones or even repairing a broken net. The idea of “equipping” is a role of the pastor through the Holy Spirit to bring people into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and nurture them in order that Jesus will become Lord of their lives.

In light of these two passages, and I could suggest many more, let me offer theserecommendations, given to me several years ago, to help you in your preaching ministry:

  1. Be biblical. Preach the Word! As preachers, we stand under the authority of the Word of God. We are to regard ourselves as humble servants of the Word of God. Our preaching is nothing unless it is a genuine ministry of the Word. It is not enough to talk about the Bible. The Bible itself must be taught, expounded, and applied.
  2. Be earnest. Give your best in preaching the Word. If we do not take our preaching seriously, our hearers are not likely to do so either. The believers know whether our heart is in our preaching: whether we go into the pulpit because we have something to say, or simply because we have to say something.
  3. Be simple. Preach in an intelligible manner, in language which the congregation will understand. Remember that it was said of our Lord, “The common people heard Him gladly.” This was a tribute to the fact that He spoke to them in a way that they could understand. The same characteristic marked the apostles’ preaching. Learn from such great preachers as Billy Graham—their message is profoundly simply and what an im­pact it has as the Holy Spirit speaks through them.
  4. Be interesting. Dullness is one of the worst traits of the pulpit. Preaching should never be dull. The message that we are entrusted with is not dull. The New Testament calls it “good news,” and good news is never dull. It is exciting, stimulating, tremendous. WhatGod in Christ has accomplished for our salvation is the most amazing good news of all.
  5. Finally, be practical. Apply the truth as you preach it. Show the relevance of the Scriptures to our times and to the lives of those to whom you speak; illustrate your sermon as Jesus did. It is our responsibility to share what the Word has to say about such practical matters as money, work, marriage, divorce, family life, spiritual growth, sin, and the list goes on and on. People need to be instructed and edified and equipped for the battle of life.

May God richly bless you as you minister to God’s people and faithfully proclaim His Word.

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