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  • The God-Preacher

    Posted on October 19th, 2009 admin No comments

    One of the greatest fears of any preacher is capturing people’s praise rather than directing it to God. That is, instead of pointing people to the glory of God, the preacher runs the risk of pointing people to himself. His tan, muscles, jokes, fashion, friends, intellect, past success, all of it has the potential of interfering with his message and destroying the spiritual power of the sermon.

    A recent experience has caused me to think about the importance of pointing people to God, not me. While what I heard was nothing new, it saddened me in a new way. It happened a few weeks ago as I shared dinner with Christian people. As I ate,
    these friends talked about the pastors at their church, specifically two of them. They also mentioned how much they enjoyed the current sermon series. I wanted to know more so I inquired deeper, “What is the series about?” They gave me the series title and said how much the introductory videos add to the sermon. I asked what one of their favorite videos had to do with the message. They said nothing, but noted it was very interesting. I thought that comment was interesting and imagine, or at least hope, they missed the connection. Beyond the videos there was disagreement with a particular sermon’s conclusion. The sermon was unclear. However, the preacher was great.

    I’m thinking the sermon should do more than make people talk about the preacher. Sermons should communicate the truth of scripture so that people see God fresh and anew. I don’t want people to talk about videos or me. I want people to talk about God.

    I know preachers who aren’t the subject of conversation after their sermons. One particular preacher comes to mind. My thoughts about his leadership were confirmed one Sunday afternoon as I talked to an elderly lady, one of those who wears a wig and ¾-inch of make-up, at Panera Bread. She had just come from the same church service I attended. She described the service, of which the sermon was a big part, as “spiritual.” She was awestruck by God. I agreed with her but didn’t have anything to add to the conversation, other than affirmation that I too was fed through a spiritual time of worship.

    Anyhow, I’ve had a chance to observe this preacher more. I’m starting to think that he avoids becoming more than a messenger by what he does and doesn’t do. I thought I’d share these observations as a reminder to myself and to encourage anyone who may have the responsibility of standing before a group of people and saying, “Open your Bibles to….” Let’s call this preacher, the preacher who isn’t the subject of conversation after sermons, the God-preacher.

    What the God-preacher does.

    1) Does practice what he preaches. That means he incorporates his message into his life before instructing others to do the same. A few weeks ago I asked a preacher how I could pray for him. He said he needed wisdom. In his sermon last Sunday he talked about asking God for wisdom.

    2) Does worship with people. The God-preacher knows that he is part of the church just like everyone else. He attends special worship services with the congregation even when he isn’t preaching. He doesn’t have to sit in the front row or do anything other than worship with his family.

    3) Does study with people. Just as he worships with the congregation, the God-preacher attends Bible studies led by other pastors or laity. He opens his Bible and participates in small group discussion. Should you visit one of these studies, such as a morning men’s group, you won’t know the difference between the preacher whose office is in the church and the engineer whose office is down the street.

    4) Does admit his shortcomings. The God-preacher acknowledges that he is human. He knows that he is on a lifelong journey to be like Christ and that he has not yet arrived. He stands before his congregation and admits, “I am foolish.” He shares his own struggles and let’s people see that he needs God’s grace just like everyone else.

    5) Does prepare well. While the God-preacher trusts the Lord to work in the hearts of people, he prepares his sermons well. You can tell he is prepared because he looks people in the eyes when he preaches. He doesn’t fumble through notes, rely on overhead slides or ramble on tangents. He knows what he needs to communicate and he is precise in his delivery.

    Now let’s talk about things the God-preacher doesn’t do.

    1) Does not speak over people’s heads.
    It would be super easy for any preacher who has had all week to prepare to sound smart. He could throw out big words and tons of information left and right. However, the God-preacher knows that he doesn’t need to impress people with his knowledge. He works hard to communicate spiritual truth in simple ways that make sense to everyone.

    2) Does not name drop.
    A preacher who talks about his friend who happens to be a famous sports figure or someone who has published lots of books often comes across as trying to draw attention to himself. The God-preacher may quote others, but he is careful to do it in a way that brings out the truth of God’s word.

    3) Does not isolate himself. Anyone who has built a personal brand of being something other than a sinner saved by grace must isolate himself. If they open up to people, their brand is tarnished. People may see that they are normal in that they have flaws. That could keep people from talking about them, or cause people to talk about them in a bad way. Since the God-preacher wants people to look to God, he interacts with people. He works hard to get out of his office and to participate in the lives of others.

    4) Does not guard his position. Preaching can be approached as a game with the goal of maintaining position as the best preacher in town. The God-preacher doesn’t play that game. He is secure in Christ rather than his position as the best preacher. He doesn’t guard his position by belittling other preachers or portraying a superior attitude. He doesn’t fear losing the favor of man, becoming second best or even losing his job. He faithfully preaches the word and trusts his position to God.

    5) Does not stretch the truth. It would be easy to gain the praise of man by stretching the truth. Sure, Jesus told stories to drive home a point, but the preacher has to maintain his integrity. The business traveler on the airplane can’t transform into a rock star crack addict who accepted Christ for the sake of driving home a point. The God-preacher tells stories, but he doesn’t stretch the truth to make himself look like a spiritual giant.

    I fear becoming more than a messenger every time I preach. I’ve seen the guy preach with the huge silver watch. I enjoyed the message, but what I remember most was his watch. It was massive.


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