Positively Negative (+-)

One time I was sitting in my office having a discussion with a church leader (at another church) and he told me I was a little too negative in my preaching. While I knew that I have a tendency to the negative side, hoping that grace will appear to be particularly glorious, there seemed to be something more specific in his comments. He told me about a particular individual that did not want to return to the service because of how badly they felt leaving the service each week. I did not like hearing it. So, I asked about this person’s life and circumstances.

From there I learned that the individual was living an immoral lifestyle, was feeling bummed about it, but did not want to change. My first question was, “Why should (this person) feel positive leaving a service where scripture has been preached?” My first thought was, “The gospel is her only hope…what does it profit a man…”.

Now, I don’t tell that true story to justify preaching negatively; I want to see my preaching improve (along biblical standards). I have always struggled to celebrate enough, chill out enough, relax enough or take enough vacation (you know, where you actually don’t think about work). Still, with that struggle aside, I believe that scripture speaks (predominantly) to my general approach of striving and correction.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

My first goal at UBC was to establish expository preaching (the meaning of the text is the meaning of the message) as the regular preaching “diet” for the church. This, I believe, is the most important commitment to see health in the local church. Notice I did not even say “first” commitment. I believe it is the MOST important. The above passage makes plain that we need to be taught something, that there is something to be corrected, that we need to be trained.

As long as scripture is preached, God’s people will be undone until they are re-done.

My struggle is how do you make such things sound relatively positive? Well, I believe that lies in our view of the gospel. The Bible is full of references that the ONLY good in man is God (in Christ). Apart from Him there is no good. So, if we are to be taught the scriptures correctly, we must listen with the ambition that only the gospel can make this message “positive”.

We are all messed up beyond hope…Christ is our only hope in this world!

Too often, people just want to feel good about themselves. That they are okay just the way they are. I understand. There is an appropriate time when we must rest and trust God to finish the work He has begun, but the way Paul says He completes that work is through Spirit-driven striving, running, boxing… Paul just did not quit.

I wonder if I am driving the church a little too hard (from the pulpit). At times I hear concerns that this is the case, many times I hear the testimonies of people visiting (and joining) who have been starving for heavy doses of scripture that love it.I think of our context. While we are not in the Sudan or India, are we any less at war (spiritually) than our Christian brothers and sisters on foreign soil? How would they preach when they just have lost children and husbands in bloody tribal feuds? Only a deep faith can endure deep suffering. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom.10:17).

Where does this leave me and the church? Well, it leaves me with a desire to have you pray that the only embodiment of grace and truth, Jesus Christ, fill all of my study, life and speech. I desire to only improve in the message proclaimed each week. Given what I’ve said above, that “improvement” does not depend on what pleases any particular kind of person. I have to preach Christ and Him crucified. I have to please Him, pursuing a crown that will not perish.

Essentially, I pledge to you to preach in a way that is in accord with each text, each week, trusting God with the results. I have sought this until now and will continue to examine to see what needs to change so that God is glorified in you until we become a people who let goods and kindred go, clinging only to Him!

Blessings.

3 thoughts on “Positively Negative (+-)

  1. Put ME in the camp of ‘encouraged’, ‘uplifted’, ‘challenged’, ‘humbled’, ‘accountable’, and ‘desire more to be like Jesue’ when leaving UBC services.
    I currently belong to another local body of believers in NWA, but have been attending UBC for the expository preaching, esp on book of John.

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  2. First let me say that I personally feel blessed that you have come to lead and preach at our church. I believe the Lord is using you to lead this church to a revival. This is something that is needed in most of the churches I know of.

    I feel convicted and humbled every week I hear one of your sermons. I believe this conviction is of the Holy Spirit and it is my choice if I want to just feel bad, or ‘get right’ with God. I have spent a lot of time in the past ignoring feelings of conviction, only to feel horrible and depressed about myself.

    In the past year, the Holy Spirit has moved me to change a lot in my life and the life of my family. These changes have resulted in a closer relationship with Christ and with each other. I get great joy from this and look forward to much more.

    Keep preaching the Word brother!

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  3. My family and I have been refreshed and encouraged by the faithful preaching of truth from God’s word each Sunday and Wednesday. It is a joy to not only be challanged to a deeper understanding of the word, but to consistently hear the exhortation to FUSE this sound doctrine with the application of living it out so that we can obediently reflect God’s glory. I believe that developing a deeper understanding of the doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of man has helped me engage more in personal and corporate worship.

    One passage of scripture that is very meaningful to me is 1Cor 2:1-5. I think verse 5 applies here. “so that your faith may not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” Many schools of thought might suggest that people want to hear something that makes them feel good, and that might somehow bring in more prospective members. God is soveriegn and I don’t believe that He needs us to cleverly market or package the gospel, and I believe that he will grow His church (according to His timing) in the “good soil” of remaining faithful to scripture as long as we continue to rely on His power to be full of both grace and truth.

    Thank you for the courage and faithfulnees of you and the staff. God Bless!

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