“Play it by ear,” used to mean do it without following a score of music. Now, the phrase has come to mean doing anything without previous preparation. Christian ministers should neither preach nor counsel “by ear.”
For preaching, there has never been a legitimate reason for anyone but the apostles to avoid preparation. It was to the apostles alone that Jesus promised to inspire their preaching; He makes no such promise to you or to me. Those who attempt to get by with “playing it by ear” in the pulpit should find themselves tossed out on the ear!
Any preacher who has not prepared his message well before delivering it does not deserve a hearing. Good preaching demands hard work. It cannot be done “off the cuff.” Glib preachers, who depend on their ability to speak anywhere about anything without preparation soon wear thin.
The same should be said of counselors. Granted, there was a time when it was not possible to be trained in biblical counseling. But those days—days I remember well—have long since gone. In any number of ways—particularly, including training with the Institute for Nouthetic Studies—you can receive instruction in Nouthetic Counseling that will enable you to prepare for handling the wide variety of problems you will face.
So, preacher, counselor, will you be prepared the next time you are called upon to minister the Word? That is a question that ought not be avoided. If you can’t honestly answer it affirmatively, it is time for you to do something about it. God’s people deserve better. And, of greater import, God must not be misrepresented by those who minister in His Name.