In order for a local church to function, there must be a preacher. There must be a man to shepherd the flock and to lead the church. In Ezekiel 37 we see the famous vision of the valley of dry bones. This passage is speaking of the nation of Israel being revived. Though it does not directly refer to the local church, there are principles here that applies to the local church today. In this passage we see several things concerning the preacher and the church.
The preparation of the preacher (v. 1). Ezekiel says, “The hand of the Lord was upon me……” This is a symbol of God’s approval on a man that He has prepared. God works in various ways to prepare men to serve in leadership roles. This preparation may include practical lessons learned from life experiences. It also includes the preparation of the mind through theological education. The man who stands behind the pulpit, the man who takes hold of the reins of leadership in the church; must be a man who is prepared.
The call of the preacher (v. 1). Our text says, “……and carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which is full of bones.” Notice he says that he was carried out and set down. A man who is called to serve in the local church must be one who has a two-fold calling. First of all, it is a call to a specific ministry. There are many pastors out there today who have a gift but have not been called. Let me explain. There is, I believe, a general calling on all believers to preach the Gospel. We are all called to proclaim the good news of Jesus. There are also those to whom God has gifted with the ability to clearly communicate God’s Word. They have a gift of preaching and teaching. However, when it comes to being a pastor or any other vocational minister, there is a specific calling. There is no doubt in my mind that God has called me to be a pastor. Others may be called to medical missions, I am not. Some are called to be itinerary preachers or evangelist, I am not. Some are called to be church planters, I am not. God has called me to the specific Biblical office and ministry of a pastor. The problem is when a calling is mistaken. Some have a calling to preach as an itinerary preacher or evangelist, but are attempting to serve as pastor, a role to which they have not been called. This causes trouble both for the preacher and the church. It must be understood that the pastor must be a man who has been prepared by God and called by God to be a pastor. The second part of the two-fold calling is a call to a specific place. Now, we have to be careful here. I do believe that just like in any vocation, there is room for one to better himself and his family. In other words, a man who is called to serve as a pastor should not limit himself. In other words, when opportunity is given to be in a better situation for him and his family, he should certainly consider it. However, at the same time, there is a calling to specific locations. God works in the circumstances of our lives to bring us to where He wants us to be and that it includes our geographical location. There needs to be a sense of calling to the specific place of ministry where the pastor is serving. He may have arrived at that place through various circumstances, including an opportunity to better the life of his family. Whatever circumstance led him to be where he is, there must be a calling to that location. For example, I would not be the pastor of First Baptist Church in Decherd Tennessee if it were not for the fact that my dad is a former pastor of this church and my grandmother and great-grandmother attended this church. I would not be the pastor here if it did not provide a better opportunity for me and my family and increase my potential and circle of influence. It was those circumstances that connected me with First Baptist Decherd which, I believe, were circumstances used by God to call me to serve in this specific location. When it comes to the preacher and the church, there must be a specific calling to a specific type of ministry and a calling to a specific place.
The evaluation of the ministry (v. 2). In verse two, God shows Ezekiel the state of the ministry to which He was calling him to. He was showing Ezekiel the work that needed to be done. It is the responsibility of the pastor to evaluate the ministry that God has placed in his care. With that evaluation, he is then able to see God’s vision and come up with a plan to fulfill that vision.
The test of faith (v. 3). God asks Ezekiel if he believed that dead bones could live. Ezekiel replies by sayings, ‘Yes, God, of course they can live. You can make them live.’ There comes a time when we must totally trust in God. We must trust in what only God can do. One of the responsibilities of the pastor is to lead the church down a path of total trust in God. Our faith needs to be stretched. We need to be at a place where God is working in ways that only God can do. There must be an atmosphere of faith in the church. In other words, the church must be at a place of total reliance on God. The vision should be a God-sized vision. The ministry should be a God-sized ministry. We should create an environment that stretches our faith and allows God to work in ways that is beyond us.
The preaching of the Word (v. 4). God tells Ezekiel to preach to the dry dead bones. He tells him to preach the Word of the Lord. The primary responsibility of a pastor is to preach the Word of God. Building relationships is important, but that is not the primary responsibility. Leading is important, but that is not the primary responsibility. Visiting the sick and the hurting is important, but that is not the primary responsibility. All of the so-called ‘pastoral duties’ are important and attention should be given to them, however, nothing is more important than the preaching of the Word. This is why the apostles appointed certain men to take care of the physical needs of the church so that they can spend their time in the Word and in prayer. A good pastor is going to understand the importance of being in the study preparing to preach. We can have all different kinds of ministries that are all wonderful and good, but, nothing can ever replace or negate the preaching of the Word of God.
The power of the Word (v. 5-6). When the Word of God is preached, things begin to happen. Life is breathed into dead bones when the Word of God is preached. The church is revived, when the Word of God is preached.
The results of the preaching (v. 7-14). When the Word of God is preached, several things will happen. First of all, there will be unity. Verse 7 gives a picture of the bones coming together. The preaching of the Word brings unity in the church. Why? Because you cannot argue with ‘Thus says the Lord.’ The preacher must preach the scriptures and true doctrine. Several years ago, while pastoring a small village church in Maine, a prominent leader in the church that everyone looked up to said to me, “Pastor, you need to stop preaching doctrine, because doctrine divides.” He went on to tell me that I should engage in telling real life stories that will encourage people and not use so much scripture. Obviously, to his dismay, I ignored his advice! Doctrine does not divide, it unites. The preacher must be a student of theology. He must be one who can clearly articulate and teach true doctrine based on a literal interpretation of the scriptures. My friend, there is no other way. The thing that will bring the church together is the truth of God’s Word. The bones will come together, the church will be revived when the Word of God is preached.
Secondly, when the Word of God is preached, there will be life. Verse 8-10 speaks of life being breathed into the bones. The Bible is a living book. It is inspired by God. It is God-breathed. It has the power to give life to all who heed to it. Therefore, preach the Bible and nothing else. Breath life into a dry and thirsty soul by giving them the scriptures.
Third, the preaching of the Word of God brings purpose. Verse 10 says the bones rose up into a great army. Show me a vibrant church that is making an eternal impact on its community and I’ll show you a church that preaches the Word. Show me a church that is filled with worldly people that has ministries that does little to make an eternal impact, ministries designed to please and make you feel good about yourself and not offend you rather than confronting you with truth, and I’ll show you a church that places very little importance on the preaching of the Word. A church that places emphasis on preaching the Word is a church that will have the greatest impact, a church that will make the greatest difference.
Finally, the preaching of the Word of God brings glory to God. Verses 11-14 makes it very clear that the work being done is God’s work. When the Word is preached, God is glorified. The glory of God is our ultimate goal. In all that we do, it is for His glory.
The church needs a preacher that will proclaim the life-changing power of the Word of God. As the Word is preached, God will do His work in changing lives for His glory.