As the first task of the specific duties we mention: "thoroughly and sincerely to proclaim to the congregation the Word of the Lord." Let us pay attention to the various elements of this sentence. In the first place, a minister is to proclaim the Word of God "thoroughly." This refers not just to the preparation of the sermons to which he should dedicate a considerable time each week. It also refers to the comprehensive character of the proclamation. No part of the Scriptures should be neglected and no aspect of the Lord's revelation may be left out. The "whole counsel of God" is to be proclaimed to the church.
A minister is free in the choice of a text for the sermon. The only thing he has to take into account is what the consistory may have decided regarding the "days of commemoration" of which we speak in Art. 53. We are not speaking of the "Catechism sermons." Here a minister is bound to a certain schedule. For the morning services, however, we have no specific pattern, no weekly "lessons" that have to be observed so that every one knows beforehand which text will be explained.
Some ministers more of less follow an "ecclesiastical year," but there are not very many who do so.lt is a well-known fact that John Calvin explained whole books of Scripture in successive sermons or "lectures." Such a method is to be preferred above a jumping back and forth from Genesis to Matthew, to Hosea, to the Revelation, to the Psalms. Taking successive texts from the same book compels the preacher to be very careful and precise in his exegesis; it prevents the congregation from saying, "We heard this all before for a couple of weeks already even though the text is different;" it forces the minister to abide by the text and not to wander all over in his sermon; and it gives the congregation a good picture of and insight into a whole book instead of learning about a text here, a passage there.
What is not absolutely necessary is that each and every book is taken in turn. A first requirement is that the minister himself have a good understanding of the message of the text. It would be irresponsible to come with a sermon on a text of which the preacher himself is not certain what it really means. Only when the preacher himself understands the meaning of a passage will he be able to make it clear to the congregation. When a sermon sounds very complicated and "learned," the question is justified whether the speaker himself understands what he is talking about.
 Ecclesiastical assemblies in the past sometimes felt urged to remind the preachers of the necessity of avoiding learned terms and complicated discourses and at times they even felt the need to state that a sermon should not be longer than an hour (!) so as not to tax the hearers' endurance too severely. We should not give in to the modern trend that a service must be over in an hour, which leaves no more than twenty minutes at the most for the sermon. It should be remembered that the first thing we come together for is "to learn God's Word," as we confess in Lord's Day 38. On the other hand, preachers should keep in mind that the capacity to retain what is being said is limited. They should also think of the children, who belong in the worship services as well. That they proclaim the Word of God "thoroughly" should result in a clear, simple, and concise sermon that can be followed by almost all.
The second part says that they are to do so "sincerely." This means that no parts or aspects of the doctrine of Scripture shall be left out on purpose because, secretly, the preacher harbours doubts about it or does not like it. A minister certainly should not review the whole doctrine of the Scriptures in every nor in any sermon. If the Lord spares him and grants him a lengthy ministry, he will have ample time to pay sufficient attention to all its parts and elements. It would, however, not be proof of sincerity if, for instance, he never mentioned God's gracious election because he has doubts about it and does not like to speak about it.
One goes wrong not only when propagating lies and errors, but also when keeping silent about certain aspects of the truth. As was the case with the apostle Paul, so a minister of the Word must be able to say, "I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God," Acts 20:26. Only then it can be said that he proclaimed the Word of God sincerely. In doing so, he will have to exercise caution as well.
If there are prevailing sins in the congregation, he will have to point out that these are forbidden by the Lord and he has to show what the obedience is which the Lord our God requires of us. Yet he should watch out and prevent that anyone in the congregation can say, "This sermon was clearly intended for brother A. or sister B." A colleague of mine once advised me, if there were marriage problems in the congregation, to choose 1 Corinthians, taking a text from successive chapters, starting at chapter 1. "Then you will get to chapter 7, too," he said, "and no one can say that you were aiming at certain people." Some simple wisdom, that is worth remembering.
Sometimes a sermon is not received with a thankful heart, but there is criticism. What should be done if one is of the opinion that there were wrong elements in a sermon? A sermon is a public matter, and one would have the right to approach the consistory about it directly. It could be that a heresy of such scope was propagated that a member has to ask the consistory to take action immediately to have the damage repaired and to prevent a repetition. Usually, however, the situation will not be all that serious. But what would the proper course of action be in such a case?
There is a possibility of having heard wrong, or of having misunderstood what was being said. It could also be that the preacher made a mistake and,
 unwittingly, said something he did not intend to say at all, and so forth. Let us, for our mutual edification, listen to what was decided in Antwerp in 1576: "If someone has misunderstood any sentence of the minister in the preaching of God's Word or cannot grasp it sufficiently, he shall be bound to let himself be informed better by an elder or deacon; and if he cannot be satisfied by their answer, he has to approach the minister himself for more light. Every one who, without letting himself be informed, talks about it with someone else, shall according to the ecclesiastical discipline be punished as a slanderer in a manner as the consistory shall decide."