Have you ever found yourself struggling with a sermon text and wondering how you will feed your flock with the feast of God’s Word? Pastors have many things to consider in preaching to the people entrusted to them. We want to be men of the Word, rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15). We want the Word of God to nourish our hearers through our preaching. In short, we want the meals we serve to our flock to be both delicious and nutritious. How are we to do this well?
Spurgeon offers us some of his own wisdom on this topic. In his inaugural address to The Pastors’ College in 1877, he lectured on these very ideas. Spurgeon taught a room full of preachers what it was to serve the Chief Shepherd by being a chef-shepherd. He taught these preachers four main ideas: Taste the food before you serve it, bring the sheep together with good food, prepare meals with love, and feed the sheep directly.
Taste the food yourself
Spurgeon shows us the importance of a preacher taking a bite of his sermon himself before he feeds the flock the meat of the Gospel. We wouldn’t eat raw food uncooked, unseasoned, or unprepared, would we? Then we must not feed the same to our people. A chef preparing food for his guests tastes everything before it makes its way to the tables. A preacher must do the same. In the Sword and Trowel 1877, Spurgeon covers this idea well for us:
“In order to preach the gospel well we must have such a knowledge of it that we are practically conversant with it. We must have it in our hearts, and also, as the proverb has it, at our fingers’ ends. We must be rich that we may scatter treasures. We must be scribes well instructed that we may be apt to teach. Let us see well to this, dear brethren; and if any of you have at all slurred your private studies and your communion with God, and your deep searching of the word, I pray you do not so; for you may get on a little while with the stores you have on hand, but they will be soon spent, or become moldy. Gather fresh manna every morning; gather it fresh from heaven. Manna is all very well out of a brother’s omer if I cannot go where it falls, but God’s rule is for each man to fill his own omer. Borrow from books if you will; but do not preach books, but the living word. Get much inward knowledge, and then deal it out.”
Did that strike you? Gain much inward knowledge about the Gospel, and then deal it out. We must taste the food ourselves before it is tasted by others. In so doing we honor the Word of God by giving it the proper opportunity to speak to us about where we fall short; before we can speak to others.
Bring the sheep together with good food
What Spurgeon is referencing is this idea that a flock that is well fed will keep returning to the shepherd that feeds generous meals. In this way, the unity of the church is strengthened around His Word. This is a special work preacher. Let us prepare a message that people can feast on until God gathers them together again. This is no small task either. In both our preaching tone and practical applications there should be well-prepared ideas and theological precepts to bolster the Word of God to our people. We do this by carefully exegeting the Word of God and thinking and chewing on it ourselves. Our gatherings should be full of spiritual flavor and taste so that the people are drawn to them like children to the family table.
“I know of no way of keeping God’s people together like giving them plenty of spiritual meat. The simple shepherd said that he tied his sheep by their teeth, for he gave them such good food that they could not find better, and so they stayed with him. Be this our custom as the Holy Spirit shall help us.”
Our sheep are best grown in their love for one another by being given proper truths from the whole counsel of God. So are you ready to serve up the next course?
Prepare meals with love
Spurgeon articulates that preaching a message was something that transported food to people, but it also brings them together in fellowship. A wonderful meal shared by a family is a singular thing; however, just as exceptional is the church banqueting together under the preaching of the Word of God. We sit together in our churches and feast together; how can the preacher help produce familial affection at the feast? By preaching and living among them in a way that shows his love for them and for their Lord.
“Let us also labor by our preaching to make church fellowship a great deal more real […] Try to make church fellowship full of life and love by preaching and living the gospel of love and brotherhood. Be to your people like a father among his children, or an elder brother among his brethren, that you may be the means of blessing to them…”
May we be the means of blessing through our love for the sheep. Love should be a perpetual ingredient in our preaching. Love your people as a father his children. Our people should feel perpetually cared for in each discourse, not battered down. They should feel welcome in their own flock through the preached word, even when the food is more weighty than usual. Even if a side dish may have a bitter taste, the chef knows that it will accentuate the main course when it comes out. This should be the balance we are striving for.
Feed the sheep directly
What if we were just preaching our own points, thoughts, and teachings rather than the Word of God? What if we were preaching to some other audience, rather than to our own people? Of course, in that case, such meals would taste flat, dry, and bland. But if we preach God’s Word to our people, with all our heart, the Gospel can and will do tremendous things.
“We must preach as men to men, not as divines before the clergy and nobility. Preach straight at them. It is of no use to fire your rifle into the sky when your object is to pierce the heart […] Your work is to charge home at the heart and conscience. Fire into the very center of the foe. We have heard sermons preached in which the minister prayed God to save souls, but unless he had departed from his usual laws of procedure it was not possible for the Almighty God to use such discourses for any such purpose, for they have consisted of mere trifling with words, or an exposition of some minute point of opinion, or a philosophizing away of the mind of the Spirit. Pray the Lord to save your hearers, and then drive at them as though you could save them yourself. Trust in God, and then employ such logical arguments as may convince the judgment and such pathetic appeals as may touch the heart, so that if effects depend upon causes you may see them produced, God’s hand being with you.”
Preacher, we must find an earnest and practical spirit in our applications and exhortations of the Gospel. Every preacher has made mistakes and blunders, as did Spurgeon. But we do not give up. Our job is to rightly divide the Word of God. This is no small or easy feat. We cannot relax in our duties because of its weight. Indeed, we must work tirelessly to use the right ingredients, cook it properly, and divide up the portions to all the sheep, from the youngest to the oldest in our flock. We preach the Gospel to a broken and dying world. We can only do this by preaching the Gospel to ourselves first, studying the message of the Bible and explaining it carefully, living an exemplar life of godliness and love for our people, and delivering the message to our people as the only means of salvation.
 S&T May 1877. P. 204.
 Ibid., P. 202.