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!