I just did some math, and discovered that there have been 1,716 Sundays in my life from age 18 to now. I’ve been in church most of those Sundays listening to your messages. I’ve also listened to a fair share of messages over the years via radio, cassette tape, CD, and even recently, podcast. I’ve learned some useful stuff from you over the years. Once in a while, lightning will strike and you’ll say something life-changing. But I’ve had to wade through a lot (A LOT!) of words you’ve megaphoned in my direction in between lightning strikes.
You know what? I think I’ve missed some of those great moments because a lot of you default to hectoring us with lifestyle advice ranging from “Read your Bible in a year” to “Don’t complain about the way we do things/touch not God’s anointed” to “Four Fine Ways to Fix Frazzled Finances”to “Arm thyself for the culture war”. It is really easy to dole out spiritual principles or (worse) your opinions about the way things should be in the church and in my life by using a lot of imperative language, isn’t it? You’re so used to thinking of this as “powerful preaching” that you miss the point that you come off as a bit of a know-it-all or worse, a bully. Too many of you copy both habit and content of contemporary well-known pulpiteers and personalities instead of the kind of preachers honored in the Bible. People like the woman with the alabaster jar, or the newly-restored Peter, or even this old guy.
Your job, preacher, is so much harder. Stop loving the sound of your own voice, or that cool rush you get when you realize everyone’s listening to you. I’d suggest that those are temptations for anyone holding a microphone, and sin if you indulge in them. Don’t try to dazzle me with your theological education, or treat me like I’m an eleventh-grader in your lecture hall. You might think you’re preaching when you telling me not to drink, chew or go out with boys who do, but that is nothing more than coloring in the lines of someone else’s moral convictions. Don’t mistake a communications skill set for preaching.
Preaching is when you simply present Jesus to me. Real preaching requires so much more of your own brokenness coupled with your active prayer life. Real preaching “salts my oats”, exposing the thirst I have for communion with my Creator. Real preaching is your own thirst made public. Real preaching brings us both to the Source of living water.
I’m on your side, Preacher. You have a daunting job with eternal consequences. I’m a writer, and these rules apply to me, too.
I’m praying for both of us today.
In Him, Michelle
Question: Have you ever heard a sermon that changed the course of your life? What made it so?
6 thoughts on “Dear Preacher”
Good job. A scarier issue behind non-preaching…the preacher doesn't really know Jesus and therefore will not be able to introduce or reintrodcue his/her listeners to Him. There will be no Holy Spirit.
You're so right, dear Cicero. 🙂
The first time I heard the Liar, Lunatic or Lord argument presented really powerfully was a key moment in deciding that yes, I'd bow to Christ as Lord.
On the whole, I prefer biblical sermons to lifestyle ones. We get a lot of biblical teaching at our church – have you given it a try yet?
That sermon is a classic, for very good reason. It offers the three basic answers to the question Jesus posed at various points throughout his ministry: "Who do you say that I am?"
I first heard Josh McDowell deliver his version of it when I was in college. (I imagine it was probably like sermon number #76 in my sermon queue.) For a non-auditory learner like me, the fact that I can still remember it all these years later says something about how effective it was in revealing Christ to me.
And it revealed Christ to you as well, Jane. 🙂
Sigh – CCLF is nearly as far as our old church. We live near 120 and Fairfield Road, just to give you an idea of the drive.
The sermons that affected me the most didn't really present anything new. They just brought together things I already knew in a way I hadn't considered before. So those all those sermons filled with "basic" biblical teaching laid the foundation for the life-changing sermons when they came.
Good point, Papa Bear. I don't want to negate the value of 1,716 Sundays in a search for the "Jackpot!" sermon moment. There is definitely something to be said for discipline and faithfulness for sure.