As I waited for my children to get showered and dressed after their swimming lessons I scanned through an old notebook. I took these notes about 15 years ago as I listened to a Howard Hendricks cassette on leadership. As ever with him, good stuff. At one point he was speaking of the need to develop deep personal conviction.
“We live in a day without a cause. Some churches have programs instead of building convictions in people. Only beliefs are not good enough to get job done. The people in your church need to fill their minds with solid Bible study. They need to develop an appetite for meditating and thinking, for praying and pursuing God.” (Rough quote from old notes)
This gives me pause for thought.
First, am I a man of deep conviction? Have I not only learned, but tested and retested in non-cotton wool environments? Do I fire my belief into conviction not only in the furnace of life’s experience, but also in the quiet place of prayer, face to face with my God? Are my convictions genuine so that those I get near have a chance of becoming infected with them? (As Hendricks put it, ‘you don’t catch anything from a man who doesn’t even have a cold!’)
Second, is my preaching delivered with deep conviction or with performance hype? I think the difference comes from two factors, among others. 1 – Are there years of study and ministry and life experience standing behind each sermon. And 2 – Have I given this particular sermon preparation enough days to start to take a fresh hold in my heart and life? If I start to prepare this Sunday’s sermon on Saturday, or Friday, then I will be unable to speak out of deep contemporary conviction and will have to rely on long-term life conviction only. Start early enough so this message can really take hold and start to work in me before it is spoken through me.
Third, do I preach and lead and mentor for more than assent? It is easy to preach in order to educate, but it takes much more to preach in order to deeply persuade, to infect, to stir the hearts of those listening so that lives are touched. For a start it takes something more than I can do as a teacher, it takes God at work in the hearts of those listening, so I must be a pray-er if I am to be a true preacher. More than that, I will need to get alongside some people in the church and infect them close up. That gets into mentoring, building a team, mobilising and equipping others. Another post for another day.
Let’s pray that we will be preachers of deep genuine conviction, and that we will be used to spark other genuine deep conviction Christians too.