Tillers of the Soil: Preacher, Help Them Understand!
Recently I was struck by a word Jesus used several times throughout the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. The word used in English translations is understanding. Those who hear the word and understand it are those who produce a multiplying crop. Those who understand have good soil so the seed can take root. On the other hand, those who hear the word and do not understand are like seed that falls on the hard path. What struck me was the difference between the people who respond to God’s Word (or, in the parable, the different soils). According to Jesus, the difference is understanding.
I know the primary point here is that of spiritual understanding. I, nor any preacher, has any control over that. That is the work of the Lord. But what every preacher does have control over is how hard they work to help their congregations have understanding. According to the parable, the ones who multiply themselves (produce a multiplying crop) are those who understand the Word. So too about those who reject the Word or are choked by the cares of the world. They lack understanding. /p>
Preacher, your job is to till the soil. You can’t make a seed grow. That’s the work of the Lord. But you can work hard so the soil can be as soft as possible for the seed to be planted. Work hard to understand the text. Then work hard to think through how to best help your people understand the text. Think about that. Your job is not just to understand the text. Your job is to help your congregation understand the text. Some weeks the more difficult work will be exegeting the passage. But many weeks, the difficult work will be discerning how to package the message so they understand. Work hard at this!
Our job is not to give spiritual understanding. We can’t cause the seed to grow. But let’s not be guilty of blaming the Lord for our own laziness. To be sure, there are times when the seed of the Word falls on the hard path because hearts are closed. But there are other times, I fear, that it happens because preachers haven’t done the hard work of preparing. Don’t just learn the text, preacher. Learn how to help them understand the text.