In the second chapter of his first letter to the young Thessalonian church, Paul emphasizes the relational component of his preaching ministry among them. He writes, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us (1 Thes 2:8 ESV).” Faithfully opening the Scriptures to our listeners is of course essential to the call of expository preaching. At the same time, Paul calls us to open our hearts, and love the people to whom we preach as those who are “very dear to us.” Our people will find it increasingly difficult to ignore the words of a man who is so clearly devoted to them and to their good, with the affection of Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon captures this essential relational component of pastoral ministry in his Lectures to My Students:
A man who is to do much with men must love them and feel at home with them. An individual who has no geniality about him had better be an undertaker and bury the dead, for he will never succeed in influencing the living . . . A man must have a great heart, if he would have a great congregation. His heart should be as capacious as those noble harbors along our coast, which contain sea-room for a fleet. When a man has a large, loving heart, men go to him as ships to a haven and feel at peace when they have anchored under the lee of his friendship. Such a man is hearty in private as well as in public; his blood is not cold and fishy but he is warm as your own fireside. No pride and selfishness chill you when you approach him; he has his doors all open to receive you, and you are home with him at once. Such men I would persuade you to be, every one of you.
C. H. Spurgeon, “The Minister’s Ordinary Conversation,” in Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954), 169.
Eric Smith is the pastor of Sharon Baptist Church in Savannah, Tennessee. He and his wife, Candace, have three children: Coleman, Crockett, and Clarabelle. Eric is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.