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There seems to be two possible ways that a preacher can feed their flock. One, they can be inspired by God to preach sermons that give people exactly what they need in due season without ever realizing the sermon just fits the needs of the church. Two, they really get to know each person in the congregation and develop a clear understanding what their needs are to preach sermons that match what they can see.

My question is this second method a duty or just an option? Can a preacher just bury himself in theological study and prayer barely knowing his congregation, or must he engage the members getting to know them and their thoughts?

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I have become all things to all men so that by any means... –  Affable Geek Aug 9 '13 at 22:20
    
The word minister in the bible can also be translated servant or to serve. A good servant should know the one who he is serving. –  Matt Aug 11 '13 at 21:38
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3 Answers

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My opinion is to look at the life of Paul.

Paul's ministry was the largest and covered a wide geographical area. He met many different people along the way, many towns and cities. When I read the epistles of Paul, I'm surprised to see how well he remembered the believers from different corners of the region and his intimate relationship with them. In most of his letters, at the end, Paul included greetings to the church members by name and their activities that he remembered. I think this indicates how well Paul knew his church members. Here is an example.

Romans 16 (NIV)

[....]

6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.

9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.

11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.

15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them.

[.....]

Conclusion: Inspiration from God is the most important factor for delivering effective sermons and additionally, it is also important for the minister to know the state of his sheep and have an intimate relationship with them, just as Paul did with his church members.

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You have a strong argument by looking at Paul. –  Mike Aug 10 '13 at 14:21
    
+1 Paul is a great example, good answer Mawia! –  HelloWorld Aug 11 '13 at 1:20
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There is a Biblical basis for it is written

"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, And attend to your herds;" (Proverbs 27:23)

And

"A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment." (Proverbs 18:1)
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It's quite indirect, but depends on how it speaks to the reader. –  Mawia Aug 10 '13 at 10:03
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John 10:14 ("I know my sheep and my sheep know me" along with surrounding verses) might also apply to the undershepherds--clearly they are not to be like hired hands. –  Paul A. Clayton Aug 10 '13 at 12:18
    
@PaulA.Clayton Jesus is divine. How can a minister know each and every member like Jesus? I don't think that verse can be applied literally to human, though it may be helpful for encouragement. –  Mawia Aug 10 '13 at 12:26
    
@Mawia I agree that the degree of knowledge is different, but the shepherd metaphor applies to undershepherds (so the sheep listen to them). With respect to preaching, a sermon cannot target each individual need (but like scripture reading must rely on the Holy Spirit to inform the listener) but common concerns in the specific congregation's context can be emphasized in the exposition of the text. –  Paul A. Clayton Aug 10 '13 at 12:42
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2 John has an interesting closing. It says:

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

Out of a mere 13 verses (second shortest book in the Bible), he nonetheless chooses to say, "my real teaching is when I visit you and talk with you face to face."

Paul, in 9 of the 13 epistles, starts with some variation of

"I give thanks to God when I think of you."

Two of the others - Galatians and 2 Corinthians - are actually notable for their absence, followed by exceedingly harsh personal rebukes. Thus, personal relationships are front and center in 11 of 13.

Phillipians is explicitly about the link, identifing Paul's personal imprisonment as his primary preaching vehicle:

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

From this, he is able to distinguish between pure-motive preaching and bad - the difference being that bad-motive preaching is for personal ambition. He then continues with the famous "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," but then returns to his primary point, saying:

23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

This all show a clear preference for incarnated, face to face communication even over against the permanence of the written word. If generic teaching were to be overemphasized over this pattern, it would be surprising that (especially in light of how expensive letters were!) the writers would all devote space to the focus of interpersonal pleasentries.

But, when read in constant admonition of statements like "be of one accord" and "minister to one another" and "Little Children, Love one Another," that "one-anothering" places this in perfect sense.

The question would then need to be rephrased - What biblical precedent would there be from exempting the preacher from this clear teaching? The answer to that is simple:

None.

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Its funny when I asked the question I was not really aware of how solid the answer was. More good points here. –  Mike Aug 11 '13 at 22:58
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