Friday, August 8, 2014
"The preaching that this world needs most is the sermons in shoes that are walking with Jesus Christ." — D.L. Moody
I cannot count the the number of times this has happened. I had spent hours preparing and researching my sermon, practicing parts of it, and committing most of it to memory. When I was satisfied, I typed in the scripture and sermon title in the bulletin for Sunday morning. As I sat in the chancel waiting for the time for the sermon—something happened. It was if some hands just grabbed me and shook me and said, “No, don’t do that one—do this one.” New scripture and new thoughts blossomed in my head. I stood and delivered the sermon, not the one for which I had spent so much time preparing, but the one that just ignited in my heart. It was those sermons that so many people remember. Those sermons that people later claimed changed their lives. They weren’t as eloquently delivered or filled with masterful analogies and illustrations—they were usually much shorter, much more pointed, and according to others, much more profound. It was after those sermons that I would hear remarks like, “Should have worn my steel-toed boots today, preacher,” or “That was a real pew-polisher today, rev,” or the people leaving would be too emotional to say anything but would shake my hand with tears in their eyes. God knows far better than I what people need to hear, and I need to listen to Him. I know a pastor who once showed me his file folders of five years of sermons that he would do one after another and then when the five years were up, would just start over. Sorry, but I believe a sermon is a living, organic thing that connects the speaker and the hearers at the same time hearing the same words and reacting to them as God would have them do. The best preacher is a conduit, a hose, a pipe that is allowing the Words and truth of God to flow through him or her to the ears of the hearers, and it is the pastor’s task to see that the flow is unimpeded by junk and stuff that the pastor has stuffed into the pipe. Sermons are not like arrows that the preacher aims at the congregation, they are invitations to God discourse that is calling upon the hearers to not only understand but to feel and to do what they are hearing. Christ told us to be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only.” Christianity is not a noun—it is an active verb. No one should ever have to ask if you are a Christian—your life, words, and actions should leave no doubt. Every time I tried to tell people what I thought God wanted them to hear, I failed. Every time I got out of the way and let God speak, I succeeded by not being an obstacle to the truth. Let your lives speak such volumes that your mouth never has to utter words to prove your Christianity.