The following by Anton Bosch, author of  the fine booklet Contentiously Contending and pastor of Sun Valley Community Church, wrote the following as the module on Homiletics for Theological College of South Africa (TCSA).

Pastor Bosch informs us concerning:

Purpose of TCSA

The purpose of TCSA is not to train theologians or academics but to prepare people for ministry. We feel that this is in obedience to the Biblical mandate of the Great Commission and also of 2Timothy 2:22 “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Against this backdrop Anton Bosch then writes concerning the oft-misunderstood subject of preaching:

Does this then mean that we must be perfect before we can preach and that we must have fully attained to every principle we teach? Obviously not. None of us are perfect and we will only attain perfection when the Lord comes. But we need to be actively striving towards the goal of being fully Christ-like. We can only preach on any topic to the degree that we have grasped it and every one of us is still learning. But let’s say you have understood 50% of the topic of humility, then you can only live and preach 50%. That is fine. We do not need to attain to 100% in the area of humility before speaking on it. But the problem is when we have understood 50% and we preach 50% but we only live 40% (or we have understood 50% but we are trying to preach 70%).

At the same time we should not create the impression that we have fully understood the subject when we have not. What people need to see is a sincere desire for more knowledge and more practice in our walk. No-one can hold it against you if you are not yet perfected, but it is a serious problem if you are not striving after the perfection that is to be found in Christ. We do not expect toddlers, teenagers, or young men to act as wise and mature men but it is a real problem if, at any stage, the man stops growing. Wisdom only comes with experience and age. You cannot learn it in a Bible School or anywhere else. So we expect teenagers to do foolish things, the problem comes when they do not learn and continue in their foolishness even into old age.

At the same time we need to be careful what subjects we choose to preach on and how we deal with those topics. For example a 20-year old single young man is really limited in his ability to teach on the complexities of marriage and raising children and really has very little to say about how to handle mid-life-crises. Does that mean he should not speak on marriage if necessary? No, but he needs to speak what the Bible speaks and make it clear that he is not speaking from personal experience but simply teaching what he has learnt academically. But even then, he needs to be very careful to not “lay down the law”. If he comes across too authoritarian his message will be rejected on the basis that he does not know what he is talking about.

All the time, we should be praying that the Lord open our eyes to fully understand experientially what we often preach theoretically. But be aware that no experience comes cheap. We do not get experience from a book, a pill or some miraculous inspiration. We get it from hard experiences. Humility comes from being broken, patience comes from being brought to our wits end over and over. Sympathy and empathy come from going through the same deep waters that those we are ministering to are going through.

In the weeks around the time that I am writing this module, I am also ministering to a neighbouring church that is struggling with conflicts and division. I am able to speak with tenderness and sympathy and yet with urgency because I have been through many divisions in the churches I have led during my ministry. I know the anger, the frustration, the hurt and all the other emotions that both sides of the conflict are experiencing and because I bear those scars my ministry in this situation has a depth that I would never have had, had I not gone through the heartache of divisions over and over. It is easy for people on the outside of the situation to dish out easy formulas to the situation, but those in the situation sense that those people do not know what they are talking about.

So here is the problem: The smoother your walk and ministry is, the shallower it will be. In order for your ministry to attain a depth and richness, you will have to go through many hard and difficult situations and the deeper the waters the more real the ministry becomes. There is no short cut. But many in the ministry run away from and avoid problems in their personal lives and in the ministry but in the process they are rejecting the very tool the Lord is using to better equip them for the work.

Consider Jesus: “who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,” (Hebrews 5:7-9).

Jesus knew what obedience was. As God He had a full understanding of every aspect of obedience. He had also never been disobedient and therefore the text does not say He learnt to be obedient. He did not have to learn to be obedient, the way we need to learn to be obedient. But it says “He learnt obedience” meaning He learnt what obedience was in practice. He had the theory but he had never struggled with his will (as a man) being different to the will of God. Obedience is easy if the will of the subordinate is the same as that of the superior. But when their wills differ, obedience becomes difficult. Jesus (the man) did not want to suffer at the cross and He prays for an alternative. But He subjects His will to the will of the Father and becomes obedient to the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8).

As a result, He now fully understands how we struggle to be obedient and the personal cost of obedience. He could never have gotten that knowledge but through experience. In the same way He knew all about the theory of physical pain, but only really knew what pain was when they tortured Him.

Before He came to earth He was perfect, but he could not be a perfect High Priest in the sense that He could not sympathize with us in our struggle to be obedient and in our pain. But now He has been perfected because He is able to understand us in a way He did not before He became a man. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

If Jesus then had to suffer in order to minister to us, do you think we will have it easier? I do not think so. Yes, there are pastors who have had wonderful lives with no financial, family, health or financial problems. But their ministry lacks a dimension that can only come through experience. So, do not grumble, faint, or run away when things are hard. It is part of your training and it is working towards a great and glorious plan for your ministry. God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose.

No piece of silver or gold comes out of the ground 100% pure. It has to be refined in the fire. There are more than a dozen verses in both Testaments that speak of this refining process: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10). But here is the problem: Many people leave the ministry because it is too hard, thinking that all the problems are unnecessary. They are not, they are a vital part of the Lord’s equipping us and if we endure, we will come forth as pure gold and others will see the glory of God in us, as the dross of the flesh is burnt away and only the gold of His divine nature remains. “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:3)

Further reading