If I make one mistake more often than any other as a preacher, it is assuming more than I should about my congregation.
- I assume people want to know what the Bible says.
- I assume they know I have their best interest at heart.
- I assume they understand the context.
- I assume they have a theological frame of reference.
And having begun on those shaky assumptions, I begin building a great big sermon when the foundation has not been laid. I’ve discovered it’s better to keep the message simple (but not simplistic), to take it a little slower and to establish a good, firm foundation. Then I can build my case.
I’ll never forget when I was asked to speak to an audience who didn’t have a lot of biblical knowledge.
Some of us who are evangelicals seem to think that because we’re teaching the Bible we can bore people with it. And that there’s something wrong with the audience if they go to sleep on us. I know a great Hebrew term for that line of thinking: Hogwash!
A good communicator is interesting. Look at how Solomon put it:
The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly (Ecclesiastes 12:10).
Did you notice, “delightful words”? The preacher sought to find that which would bring emotional delight. How about that! I take that to mean he’s looking for clarity as well as an interesting, even captivating use of terms.
I heard a true story that theologian Carl F. H. Henry told as he spoke to a group of radio broadcasters.
If I have one strength in my teaching it would have to be the application of Scripture. For the life of me, I don’t know why that’s true. It might just be a habit of my life that I can’t let the text rest until it’s been applied. But I appreciate others telling me that it’s one of my strengths. I think it can be yours, too.
(Photo: By William Hoiles from Basking Ridge, NJ, USA. Old books Uploaded by guillom. CC-BY-2.0
, via Wikimedia Commons)
I want to get very practical in this post. Let me share with you in three short lists of what I have found to be helpful in the process of drawing application from the Bible.
You can use them this week.
In the middle of the week not long ago I walked into our church’s sanctuary. The room was empty and quiet. In fact, it was dark except for the exit lights that never go out.
(Image from Pixabay)
I came down the middle aisle and stood there with no one else in the room. You know what? It wasn’t at all exciting or inspiring. Without the presence of God’s people and without the Spirit of God igniting the place with His power, there wasn’t a whole lot to it. It was just an empty, dark room.
I have learned that the same is true of the preacher.
It is important that we pastors hone our skills in preaching and teaching. But it is more important that we lean heavily on the Holy Spirit for power in these things.
Any pastor who does not feel weak—and on occasion, fearful and trembling—is not being honest with himself. Don’t go there.
Even Paul struggled with such weaknesses:
I came to you weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:3–5 NLT).
You have to love Paul’s humility, vulnerability, and dependence. He tells the truth. He admits his weaknesses. He describes his feelings. He doesn’t worry what others may think.
Paul tells the Corinthians in effect,
I’m a needy person just like you, and I have to depend on the Spirit for the strength just like you. Because it is not about me; it’s about the Lord.
This week, take a walk all alone into the room where you preach. Stand there for a few minutes in the dark, quiet, and empty space. Let the silence envelop you.
Remind yourself, as I try to do regularly, that it is ALL about Him—about His power and glory—and it is not about the preacher.
Without His power working in our weakness, brothers, our preaching is like that dark, empty room.
I know, I know—“ministry is serious business.” If I hear that one more time, I think I’ll gag. I fully realize that too much humor can be irritating, even offensive.
By BerLin (Nikon) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I recognize that it can be taken to such an extreme that it is inappropriate. But doesn’t it seem we have a long way to go before we are guilty of that problem?
I think so.