So we have thought about the personal life of the preacher, the pastoral ministry of the preacher, the preacher’s content and the preacher’s delivery. There is another important side to this subject. The listener. Are they responsive to both the message and the messenger? What can you do about it? Actually, you can implement everything we have suggested in the last four posts and still find some people to be unresponsive.
18. Some sheep are dead. I don’t mean to be unhelpfully blunt, but there are people in our churches who are not spiritually alive. They do not have the Spirit. It is not our place to judge whether someone is genuinely saved or not, but when we have concerns about the lack of the fruit of the Spirit, then we should be both evangelistic in our content and prayerful in our approach. We should not expect those who are still spiritually dead to respond and function like believers. And yet we so easily do.
19. Some sheep may determine not to connect with you. Every human is complex, believers included. A thousand factors are at play in any life at any time. Just as you find yourself drawn to or negative toward others, so others will differ in their response to you. You might do everything you can to connect with your listeners, but there may well be some that simply refuse to connect. Perhaps they have personal issues they are working through and you are an easy target. Perhaps you have unintentionally touched a nerve with something you have said or done that has grown into a big thing in their minds. Perhaps an unhelpful “mutual friend” has a deliberate or unintended ministry of spreading negativity and poisoning relationships. It takes far less effort to do damage to relationships than to build them up and perhaps others have been at work to undermine your connection with this particular individual.
Even if others in the church have not been at work, the enemy has. He loves nothing more than to turn believers against each other. And there are some people that are personally wounded or carrying enough baggage to be an easy target for his machinations.
How can this reality not cripple your ministry? That could be a series in its own right, but Romans 12:18 has to be in the mix – inasmuch as it depends on you, live at peace with everybody. Sometimes peace is not possible and the issue lies beyond your reach. Pray for God to show you what is going on in you, and pray for God to change hearts as necessary – both yours and theirs. And press on in your ministry.
20. Only one person can change hearts. Whether we are talking about unsaved individuals who are not yet transformed, or whether we are talking about believers functioning in a fleshly and immature way – the only person who can change hearts is God. Therefore our ministry can never be just Word. We must be people of the Word and prayer. If you are like me this might be a helpful reminder. It is so easy to forget to pray for specific people while focusing all my attention on preaching what they need to hear. For effective preacher-listener connection there are many factors as we have seen. None is more important than prayer.
That is the end of the series, but we have really just scratched the surface. What would you add? What has helped you connect?