Do we let individual verses surprise us and inform our understanding of a passage? For instance, look at Psalm 56 in this post.
Preaching Jesus. This is the calling of the preacher. It is an incredible calling. We aren’t called to preach tips or suggestions, mere commands or philosophy, not even just ideas or concepts. We get to preach a person. When I met my wife-to-be, I was very capable of “preaching” her to any who cared to listen. I didn’t struggle for motivation because I knew her, I liked her and I wanted to talk about her. But over the years I’ve had to do some presentations I wasn’t thrilled about . . . ideas, subjects, topics. These opportunities were very different. The personal connection and consequent motivation is far different when we grasp that Christian preaching is primarily about preaching a person.
Preaching for Jesus. And what a person we get to preach! We get to represent the great object of the desire of all creation, the one who made it all and will bring it all to a close. The one who brings eternal delight to the Father and who will reveal the delightful Father to all for all eternity. This is not a political leader with tenuous temporary influence, or a new fad who will soon pass. This is not preaching some hyped up celebrity, or some high achiever in one area or another . . . this is the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace. And we get to preach about him, and for him. That means he cares, he takes interest, he wants it to go well.
Preaching with Jesus. It just gets better. We often think of our ministry being for Jesus, but can forget the great biblical theme of working with God. He commissioned us to go and make disciples, but he did so with the promise of his presence! What a privilege to not only speak of Christ and for Christ, but also with Christ. As we preach to proclaim the gospel, we are doing so with him who is at work fishing for humanity. As we preach to edify the church, we are doing so with him who is at work building his church. As we preach to bring glory to God, we are doing so with the eternal Son who is well practiced and ever pleased to bring praise to His and our great Father. Ministry with. Seems like we don’t think about that enough!
Last week I enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon discussion in the summer sunshine by the river in Bath. Our conversation meandered through many gospel vistas and theological considerations. Along the way we were talking about youth ministry, but the point I’d like to share here applies to us all.
Typically when churches are looking for a youth minister they will try to find somebody who is more spiritually mature than the youth in the church, but close enough in age to engage in all the requisite activities. So the person is found and appointed, the programs are designed and the action begins. Often the church wants pizza and programs so that the youth are happy, but whether or not there is any real spiritual growth is another matter.
Part of the problem here is the implementation of Static Position Leadership thinking. I doubt you’ll find that term anywhere as I just made it up, but the principle is not rocket science. The youth minister is represented by the dot, and the youth are the arrow. The assumption is that since he is further along than they are, he can help them grow in the right direction. But does it work like that?
What happens when one of the young folks suddenly comes alive spiritually and is praying fervently and reading the Bible voraciously and chasing God with a passion? Does that teen simply move along the maturity arrow quicker than others, still moving towards the more mature youth leader? Not if the youth leader is spiritually static. It doesn’t take long for someone to overtake the “leader” when the leader is not really leading.
For true spiritual leadership to occur, surely the Dynamic Position Principle must apply. That is, you can only lead others forward as you yourself are also currently moving forward. A church that gets a youth minister who lacks personal genuine growth in their walk with God will be directly harming the youth in the church. It won’t take much for one to surpass the leader in current spiritual momentum. And it won’t take much for the static leader to squash the life out of those who might show him up if they continue.
If this is true for youth ministry, surely it is also true for whole church ministry. Moving the dot to the right for an elder or pastor does not guarantee any sort of health in the church. What is needed is mature and growing godly leaders if they are to infect others with forward momentum in their walk with Christ.
You matter. Preaching matters. Your preaching matters. But don’t mix these up.
You matter – you are a person for whom Christ died, a person who has been bought with a price and baptised into the body of Christ to participate in the fellowship and life of God himself. Just like the people you preach to, your worth and value are to be found in Christ.
Preaching matters – what God has done in Christ for your listeners and you is truly worth sharing boldly and openly. Preaching matters because God is an incarnationally-minded communicator and as a result, we have something to say. Preaching the word of God has always been a key part of God’s mission in this world, for there is a revelation and a proclamation at the core of that mission.
Your preaching matters – you may not be so-and-so famous preacher who draws huge crowds, but you are more than just the person scheduled to preach this next time. The people gathered have a divine appointment with the word of the gospel, so you will want to give your very best for their sake, and for His. The famous preacher is not scheduled to be there, by God’s providence, you are.
Don’t mix these up – one of the ways we can get into trouble as preachers is to start to confuse these truths. Since preaching matters, I matter because of my preaching? Careful! The moment we confuse our identity in Christ with our role in ministry, we are set for trouble. I recently heard of a visiting preacher who marred his reputation by his reaction to a circumstance that thwarted his opportunity to preach. It is good to take your preaching seriously, but never think you are indispensable. It is good to serve God in preaching, but never let your identity be determined by it. Your preaching matters, but God can, and does, work apart from your ministry.