Post coming straight from the golden oldie archive of January 2008. I’m on holiday with the family. When is your next break, by the way? I’m finding I need to schedule them further out to make sure they happen! So, back to the post . . .
Times have changed. The New Testament was written in a time when the primary form of public entertainment, at least in the Greek context, was the oratory of the travelling rhetoricians. Today we live in a time of complex and numerous forms of entertainment, a time when oratory is frowned upon by many. Times have changed. In those days the “speaker” was one who spoke with a motivation to look good, to make money and to gain the applause of the audience. Times have changed, or have they?
If there is a sphere where the potential dangers of oratorical pride persist, it is in the church. It is so easy to preach in such a way as to look good before others, to pump up your own hype. It is a constant danger that money becomes a motivating factor in ministry decisions (both individual invitations as a guest speaker, or moving church for a better pay package). It is a lurking temptation to preach for applause (not typically the theatrical ovation, but the post-sermon feedback, the cloud of affirmation). These dangers are before us whether we are guest preachers, or local pastors. But we must fight every temptation to tickle ears, line our pockets or only ever look good.
Here are some basic starting points:
Honor God’s Word – Preach the Word. If it might make people uncomfortable, preach the Word. If people’s ears won’t feel tickled, preach the Word. Obviously be gracious and careful, but don’t preach always living in fear of offending someone.
Honor God’s People – It is tempting to tickle ears and promote good feelings all round, but people need more than that. Love them enough to communicate the text relevantly, even if somewhat uncomfortably. Love them enough to challenge errant thinking, dangerous tendencies, etc. But don’t take this as an excuse for laying on guilt trips all the time – remember that our people need a lot of encouragement too!
Process Personal Pride Promptings – Pride is a temptation for all of us. It may manifest in different forms, but we must all be aware of it. Let’s always process any pride promptings before God. Take the positive comments, the whispering voice of affirmation, the feelings of accomplishment, and bring them back to Calvary.
Times have changed, but not completely.