Preaching involves a preacher. It isn’t simply about the message, it is also about the messenger. And one thing that matters, perhaps more than almost anything else, is that the preacher be a living, breathing, genuine fruit of spirit kind of a Christian.
So far we’ve looked at joy, peace, patience, kindness. . . let’s probe a bit more:
Goodness – Surely there should be an inherent goodness in our speech that reflects well on the Christ whom we claim to represent? We are surrounded in our culture, and by choice through the media, by all sorts of degraded, obscene and morally bankrupt speech. If we don’t consciously think about it, we may naturally default to a level that others will find offensive.
I’m not talking about the “easily offended” Pharisees that prowl around some churches looking for anyone active in ministry whom they can devour. I’m talking about other believers who have chosen to filter the filth that feeds their thoughts and therefore have a cleaner grid through which to hear. Preaching shouldn’t be a place where a lack of goodness in what is said should ever hinder people from hearing God’s Word proclaimed.
Last week we considered inappropriate ways to grab the attention of listeners. Any hint of a lack of goodness springing forth from our hearts in our speech may well achieve attention, but not a healthy kind of attention.
Gentleness – There are times when we must forcefully persuade, of course. But this can be done without discarding this fruit of the character of Christ in our lives. Paul spoke of the “meekness and gentleness of Christ” in 2Corinthians 10. Peter spoke of being ready to give an answer for the hope, but don’t forget his follow-up comment that this should be done with both gentleness and respect. Being too bombastic, too loud, too “in your face,” too confrontational, too abrupt, etc., simply doesn’t help anything.
There certainly have been some feisty characters in the history of the church. Remember that the fruit of the spirit is not always recorded in the caricatures of selective church history. Recognize that while some feistier folk have had great impact, history has not recorded the detrimental effect of the many more who left no positive legacy.
Next time we’ll wrap up the list, and perhaps answer the question why I missed one too . . .