What does it mean to be a servant of the Word? First, if we are to be servants of the Word, the priorities of our ministry must be such that the preaching of the Word is central—everything else must fall into place behind this priority. Are there other important tasks of ministry? Of course. Are there other important priorities of the church? Of course. But your personal schedule must reflect the priority of preaching, showing just how serious you are about it. You can find out quickly what a church believes about preaching by looking at its calendar for worship and other activities, and you can find out what a preacher believes about preaching by looking at his schedule. Every other task and priority must be subordinated to that first priority, the preaching of the Word—with the promise that it will balance all the others. Everything comes into proper balance because we do not have to worry about balancing a schedule, balancing a budget, or balancing priorities when we understand that the Word of God will establish those priorities. Then everything else will become clear.
Second, our congregations must be aware of this priority and honor it. The congregation needs to understand that preaching is not merely the preacher’s responsibility. It is the congregation’s responsibility to see that it is fed, so it is the congregation’s responsibility to call a preacher who will preach the Word. Then it is the congregation’s responsibility to hold him accountable for that preaching and to measure his effectiveness and his faithfulness to, of all things, the pulpit ministry.
Third, if we are to be servants of the Word, our preaching must be truly expository. That is, it must truly expound and apply the text of Scripture, declaring the Word of God to the people of God with admonishment, then trusting the Holy Spirit to apply that Word. Preaching the Word of God takes rigorous exposition—by which I do not mean just choosing the texts we like, the texts we think will preach, or the texts that will fall on all the right ears, but the text as it stands. I believe in verse-by-verse exposition, because otherwise we would never get to some of those challenging texts that are just so difficult to preach. But they, too, are the inerrant, infallible, and authoritative Word of God. They are profitable for our preaching and for our teaching, and how we deal with them is a measure of our stewardship. As noted above, this kind of preaching can get a man into serious trouble, and the lack of trouble ought to be a signal that, perhaps, this kind of preaching is not found in his pulpit.
In the final analysis, we will know how faithful we have been only in glory. When we see our Savior face to face, and when we see all the saints to whom we have preached, we will discover whether or not our preaching contributed to their completeness in Christ. Paul said that all of the suffering, the diligence, the hard work, the controversy, and the martyrdom was for the glory of preaching the gospel. And he said the purpose behind it was to see every man, every Christian, perfected in Christ and presented to our Lord and Savior. Failure at this task is simply too awful to contemplate.