Yesterday I wrote about the fear facing speakers that listeners will be disengaged. I’m sure some would read what I wrote and disagree, perhaps quite strongly. The critique would probably go along these lines:
Listening to the Bible being taught is the responsibility of the listener. It is one of the spiritual disciplines that we teach new believers. They should listen carefully, attentively and prayerfully. They should look for what the Word of God is saying to them. It is not about the preacher, it is about the Word of God. If there is a problem, it is their problem, for it is their duty to listen.
While I am uncomfortable with the tone of this kind of talk, I can see some truth in it. The parable of the sower is really the parable of the soils since the same sower and same seed has different results based on the “hearing” of the soil (heart) in which it lands. Certainly as a listener I remind myself that my issue with a preacher may well be, first and foremost, an issue with my own heart.
Yet as a preacher I find myself responding to this kind of comment with a pragmatic and pastoral response. While it may be true that listeners should listen, the fact is that they won’t if I am not being a good steward of the ministry opportunity. It is a privilege to preach God’s Word, and my delight in it and passion for it should engage listeners.
If I am lacking in key factors that will engage listeners, then I can critique them, I can make them feel guilty, I can harangue, I can pile on the pressure, but am I not choosing a self-protective rather than a loving approach? Surely the pastoral concern for the listener would drive me to do what I can to make the feeding a more engaging experience?
My wife loves our children and wants to feed them a healthy diet. And because she loves them she also makes the meals very palatable and enjoyable. I suppose she could harangue and pile on the guilt about starving millions and her sacrifice in preparing healthy instead of the easier junk options, but her love motivates her to make the food very good, as well as very healthy.
When it comes to the preaching event, there is a responsibility on the side of the listeners. But if I am a loving preacher, then surely I will do everything possible on my part to help them to engage with and hear God’s Word?