11 October 2007

Wasted sermons (not a rant)

by Dan Phillips

[NOTE: though not itself a rant, this is a companion-piece to Wasted pulpits: a rant. It was prompted by the meta of that post.]
And [Elijah] lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, "Arise and eat." 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, "Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you." 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. (1 Kings 19:5-8)
On this, Charles Spurgeon remarks,
All the strength supplied to us by our gracious God is meant for service, not for wantonness or boasting. When the prophet Elijah found the cake baked on the coals, and the cruse of water placed at his head, as he lay under the juniper tree, he was no gentleman to be gratified with dainty fare that he might stretch himself at his ease; far otherwise, he was commissioned to go forty days and forty nights in the strength of it, journeying towards Horeb, the mount of God.
(Morning and Evening, October 5 AM)
I recently lamented the poor condition of many pulpits, emblematically speaking. "Many" does not equal "all," and God has His remnant who are preaching the Word with truth and passion, from pole to pole.

Yet the preaching of the word does not produce holiness and wisdom ex opere operato, as it were. That is, while the Word preached is powerful, it is not magical. The Word preached must fall on good soil; we must hear the Word "in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance" (Luke 8:15).

Now, riddle me this: which is the great crime — that so many good folks suffer wretched sermons? Or that so many good sermons do not find good, fertile soil?

Think about it.

Perhaps I'll develop this further another time, but the faithful sermon we hear changes our status before God. Of course, I'm not talking about justification, but about accountability. The pan-Biblical principle is: greater privilege = greater responsibility. In this particular connection, we certainly see it in Jesus' words: "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin" (John 15:22).

So let's say you are in a church that teaches the Word of God — which you should be. As you listen to the Word faithfully preached, something is happening to you. This is true whether you feel it or not, whether your behavior changes or not. Something is happening. What is happening?

What is happening is this: your responsibility-index is rising.

I have thought this often in my pulpit ministry, usually heavy-heartedly. I have seen folks come in and go out, their lives unchanged. But though their behavior has not changed, something has changed. What?

They will never be able to say, "I never heard that. No one ever told me that. That was never explained to me from the Word."

So, how to be sure not to waste the sermon you're hearing? Just a few suggestions.

First, pray. "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law" (Psalm 119:18) is always a good prayer. Recognize that something in your heart will always resist the Word, this side of glory. Something within you will be repulsed by the beauties of the Word, will deflect the should-be convicting truths of the Word, will always want to twist the uncongenial doctrines of the Word. You cannot overcome it yourself. You need the freeing and illuminating work of the triune God.

Second, remember who you are. If you're a Christian, you're not in assembly to be a spectator. You're not there to be Simon Cowell. You are called by God to be a disciple, which is to say you are a student (Matthew 28:18-20; John 8:31-32). You are called and commanded by God to learn and grow. You must get your mind challenged and renewed by the Word of God. And to do that, you are going to have to listen, think, learn, and memorize. Yes, memorize. God tells you,
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart [= committed to memory]. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:5-9, with a host of other verses)
And as I say to anyone who offers the "I can't memorize" excuse, if you know enough English to understand the challenge and offer the excuse, you can memorize.

Third,
don't be a sluggard. Note well —
Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,
but the diligent man will get precious wealth. (Proverbs 12:27)

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. (Proverbs 13:4)

The sluggard buries his hand in the dish
and will not even bring it back to his mouth. (Proverbs 19:24)
Again, perhaps we'll revisit this another time, but for now just think those over. You crave spiritual growth, do you? You are spiritually hungry? Well, here is a feast, faithfully laid out before you every week. What are you doing about it? Are you expending any diligence, any effort to take it in? Are you working hard to keep it, to consider it, to soak it in?

If you don't (for instance) take notes, is it really because you have a more effective way of focusing, listening, concentrating, and remembering?

Or is it just because you're too lazy?

You might as well be honest with yourself. God already knows the truth. Is learning the Word just not as much of a priority to you as learning when and what channel your favorite TV show is on, learning a foreign language that amuses you (— or computer language, or computer game), learning the names and statistics of the players on your favorite sports team, learning your favorite recipe?

Perhaps that's enough challenging for now, eh?

God gives us His word. We are to do something with it — something besides grading the delivery of it, and forgetting it. We are to take it in, meditate on it, and put it to work for His glory.

We'll close with Spurgeon's words:
We are not to retain the precious grains of truth as the Egyptian mummy held the wheat for ages, without giving it an opportunity to grow: we must sow it and water it. Why does the Lord send down the rain upon the thirsty earth, and give the genial sunshine? Is it not that these may all help the fruits of the earth to yield food for man? Even so the Lord feeds and refreshes our souls that we may afterwards use our renewed strength in the promotion of his glory.
PS — oops! Don't look now, but your responsibility-index just went up another notch, again!

Dan Phillips's signature

52 comments:

Even So... said...

Outstanding...

Daryl said...

Whammo...!

You got me right between the eyes.

Seems like there's at least part of the answer to "I'm not being fed". It may be true, but it maybe that I'm not eating either.

philness said...

Dan,

Question: Now the soil parable is concerning salvation, right? Cause in the beginning of your post you imply that it is not in that the soil is being preached to and I assume preached to the regenerate.

donsands said...

Excellent study. Encouraging and convicting. I have a hard time with the 'M' word (memorize). But it was such a blessing to me when I was first saved.

I know an old saint who memeorized almost the whole NT, and most of the Psalms. he was a postman, who traveled to work on the bus, and while he traveled he memorized Scripture. He's with the Lord now.

"Let these sayings sink down into your ears". Luke 9:44

DJP said...

Yes, Philness, and that description applies categorically to the regenerate. But we don't always live up to our calling, do we? That's my point. We stray from first principles, and need to be called back to them. It's analogous to how I understand Paul's exhortation, "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him" (Colossians 3:2).

Kristine said...

Wow...

...I'll just stop there.

M. Stevenson said...

This is a heartfelt challenge. A couple of years ago, I came to a disheartening realization. I would come to church hungry to be fed from the Word, (I like to describe it as a big, juicy, savory steak), and we would look down at it, smell it, lick it, and then go home, and we were supposed to say, “boy wasn’t that a great meal!” After a while, I came to the realization that I left still feeling hungry. I began to study on my own, but with little guidance even from my mentor, who was an elder’s wife and a teacher herself. I was astonished at the same time, because there were many men and women in our church who had come from good Bible colleges and seminary training, and yet no one seemed to realize that instead of a chef, we had someone in a paper hat serving us fast food from the pulpit. And it’s difficult to express that frustration without becoming slanderous or divisive, so as difficult as it was, we pretty much said nothing. (I hope that wasn’t too harsh. The pastor had other good “pastoral” qualities, but teaching—not one of them.) Thankfully right around that time I re-discovered on the radio the teaching ministry of an excellent teacher who knows how to rightly divide Scripture, and my husband and I began listening to tapes (from our church library, no less!), ordering resources on-line, and began to appreciate what steak tastes like again. We have since re-located and are at a church now that seems to appreciate steak as well, and we are thankful. But my heart still is burdened for that church that is in such need for spiritual food! I admit I should have prayed more for the leadership than I did, and now I should continue to pray for them every time the Lord burdens my heart. I should also pray for those still under that teaching, that they would be hungry enough to at least study on their own.

Johnny Dialectic said...

"You need the freeing and illuminating work of the triune God."

Yes indeed. The "something happening" is the Spirit's work, and likewise our prayers for the completion of that work will be answered, if we ask aright. Luke 11:13.

And then "We are to take it in, meditate on it, and put it to work for His glory."

Well stated. We have a part to play in this transaction, as always. Obey or resist. The former strengthens our faith, the latter weakens it.

steve said...

Such a rich blogpost for so early in the day. I'll have to read this several times. It's rich with applications and convicting.

And I'm going to add Psalm 119:18 to a sermon I'm preparing.

Thanks.

Sewing said...

So that's what that tingling feeling is, that I get when hearing a sermon or reading a convicting post (like this one)....

My brand new Bible is getting marked up right quick, not least because while I used to take notes on the weekly bulletin (where there's space for sermon notes), now I put the best points right into the Bible...where better to write down expository notes, after all!?

Sewing said...

Oh, and lest my last comment sound like boasting, I stand convicted of spending huge amounts of mental energy thinking about and/or memorizing utterly trivial stuff that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Scripture. Putting the notes directly into the Bible is part of an attempt to make the Word as much a part of my daily life and imperfect servanthood as eating and sleeping.

By the way, your point about how we have no excuse for not memorizing Scripture—given our propensity for retaining all kinds of useless trivia—was exactly the same point made by one of our pastors, preaching on...drumroll please...Psalm 119!

SolaMeanie said...

Dan,

I hope you know that pic of Alfred E. Newman used to give me nightmares as a child. I used to think he was an imp straight from the pit of Hell.

Thank you from the bottom of my pea-pickin' heart for starting my Thursday off with a serious case of heebie-jeebies.

The Interface said...

Well said. Thank you for another excellent post.

centuri0n said...

I was listening to somebody preaching yesterday while I was driving all over NW Arkansas for work, and he said that it's a shame that so many people go into Christian bookstores these days and keep buying up more judgment against themselves.

It was brilliant when he said it, and because you're far more enchanting than any podcast, Dan, it was positively stellar when you said it.

Nice work.

Keith said...

Thank you so much for this blog. As a minister who is faithfully preaching the Word of God it is discouraging to see more and more of my flock stolen by our local Willow Creek Association mega-church. I do not doubt the sincerity of all those laypeople who are begging for good preaching, but they must realize that they are the minority. The pastor of average preaching ability must face the reality that to preach the gospel faithfully and not resort to the worldly methods of the seeker sensitive church will result in stable or declining church membership. We live in a society were more people will leave your church if you preach the gospel than come to it. Because most of us pastor 2 Tim. 4:3-4 congregations the temptation to adopt worldly methods is tremendous, it takes great moral courage to remain faithful to the gospel.

To make matters worse, those members who do want good expositional preaching have been infected by the consumerism of our society. On any given Sunday you can listen to a better preacher on the internet, radio or T.V. Preaching is just like any other skill, there are a few exceptional individuals on the upper end of the bell curve, a few on the lower end and the great mass in the middle. Has the thought ever occurred to these people that if their faithful minister of average ability could preach like MacArthur, Sproul, Duncan or Piper that they probably would not be preaching in a church of under 200 members? I have found that those who should be my biggest supporters are blasting away at me for not being the “super-star” preacher that they somehow think they deserve.

Those of us who are behind the pulpit are not just struggling whether or not to leave a particular congregation, but whether or not we should leave the ministry. I thank God for John MacArthur’s message entitled “A Reminder to Shepherds,” found in the book Feed My Sheep. The reminder that we have a treasure (the gospel) in an earthen vessel (our abilities) has got me through many a discouraging day. It is the treasure of the gospel, even more than my sense of call, which gives me courage to get behind the pulpit again. I pray that the unfaithfulness of the laity will not so discourage faithful ministers that the famine in our land will only grow worse.

threegirldad said...

Dan,

Re: "I can't memorize" -- I remember getting into, ummm, discussions about this when I was a teenager. It was just too burdensome -- impossible, really -- for a number of my peers. Of course, these same people knew every single word to every Top 40 song at the time, but memorizing Scripture?! Couldn't be done...

Brynne said...

Wonderful! I'd never viewed listening to a sermon as dangerous before :) The word picture of a responsibility-index will certainly stick with me.

David said...

Yup.

Sing to yourself, "The wise man built his house upon the rock. . ." Then go read the story at the end of the sermon on the mount (Matt 7).

Who was the wise man?

Sewing said...

Keith:

I'm sorry to hear about the difficulties and temptations you have to endure. May the members who remain build one another up to keep the house of God strong.

Phil Johnson said...

Good stuff. Well said.

Sewing said...

By the way, this same "responsibility-index" effect is happening as I read through Scripture.

Leviticus: God is Holy, and we cannot even dare to approach Him without atoning for our sins.

Numbers: God will not treat those who willingly break His covenant lightly.

Deuteronomy/Joshua/Judges: Man has a natural inclination to fall away even when witness to God's amazing Grace, and God will chastise us accordingly.

And now, to accompany the 90-day reading program some of us at our church are on, this lesson extrapolated from your admonition on knowing Scripture: Don't get behind on your reading!

To put it in Pauline terms, I'm becoming accountable in spite of myself.

centuri0n said...

3GD:

So I was teaching first-grade boys about 3 years ago in Sunday School, and I sent a letter home to the parents that I wanted the boys to start knowing more about Scripture -- and we were going to memorize the Lord's Prayer and the 12 apostles in the first semester.

All of the parents told me that the boys couldn't possibly do that, so I asked on of the boys, "can you name 10 pokemon for me?" And he proceeded to name 20.

Because, you know, he saw that every day.

DJP said...

Ouch!

Now, that's a punch-line with a punch.

Steve Lamm said...

Dan,

I'm preaching a series on marriage and the passage this week is Ephesians 5:22-33.

In my study this week to prepare for the message on Sunday, I have been mulling over verses 26-27 a lot! I have a great marriage and my wife is a godly woman, but I'm feeling particularly convicted that I need to do more to help her grow spiritually.

Your blog really convicted me! Pastors have an even greater "responsibility-index" according to James 3:1.

So, I'm going to make a few changes in the way my wife and I spend evenings at home and incorporate some regular time studying and discussing God's Word together with the goal of making some significant progress in every area of our life together.

Thanks brother. The Holy Spirit used this blog in my heart. Now I need to obey His promptings!

Blessings,
Steve Lamm

DJP said...

Yes, yes, Steve. Amen. Thanks for sharing that.

Papias said...

Nice post Dan.

I have a question for you on notetaking - perhaps this can be a thread of its own?

In the SBC I attend, the bulletin is handed out every week with the pastors sermon outlined and blanks in spots. Then during the sermon the powerpoint emphasizes the word to be put in the blank. So are you taking notes at that point, or just doing what a good little Baptist does?

My question(to myself) is: would I keep the notes I took there, store them away and refer back to them?

Maybe we need to rethink how we should not just take notes, but use the notes we've taken?

If a sermon is preached and no one takes notes, was a sermon preached? :)

DJP said...

lol, Papias. I hope so, or a lot of my sermons weren't heard much!

So what does a "good little Baptist" do in such cases? Nod and look pious, hands immobile?

When I preach, I provide my own outlines, which have strategic blanks. I've not done Powerpoint yet; I just stress the words (or verses) that supply the lacunae. Without, of course, actually using the word "lacunae."

As to going back, my thought is that even if I don't, the discipline itself has helped me focus and concentrate. But I also have gone back and reviewed, or told someone about it.

Do you have some thoughts of your own on note-taking?

Maturing... said...

Thank you Dan (and Steve).

David said...

Kids can and do memorize far more than adults (not to excuse us). God commanded us to teach our children His commandments, and to keep them on our doorposts, foreheads, tablets of our hearts and all that.

At this point, I'm glad to be an old dad with young kids, because God gave me and my wife time to be intentional in this.

Regarding change in behavior: Most sermons will not change your life. Steadfast attention, meditation, memorization, application and regurgitation of God's Word will indeed change your life. A sermon is directional to the believer, giving the believer guidance in study and the application of God's Word.

Years ago, I used to carpool to church with my teaching pastor. We were going verse by verse through several epistles, and I would spend the week trying to figure out how he would preach it. I was usually wrong in my guess, but the Lord spoke to me through His word in the process. Twice. Once through my own study, and once through my friend's. Which, I guess is a strength of expository over topical preaching.

Papias said...

Dan asked "Do you have some thoughts of your own on note-taking?" Oh, be still my beating heart, someone asked for my opinion.. ;)

Its not the fill in the blank that gets me wondering(so much), its the thought, "what happens to all those notes after the service?" Do people save their bulletins in a binder, transfer the notes to a notebook, or do they just trash them? I pray that the first two options happen more often than the last one, but my pessimism tells me that #3 happens more.

When I attended a nondenom that did expository(book by book), I had different notebooks sectioned off for particular books of the Bible. I would leave space for more notes later. I still have these and reference them when studying a passage.

I guess filling in the blanks is the "proper" thing to do, it just makes me wonder: how much of this can I remember if I don't write it down? But then I can remember lots of stuff, some of which actually has value when playing Trivial Pursuit. I have more useless information stored away than I would like to admit.

Did people take notes of Spurgeon's sermons? I know that they used to publish sermons, but did individuals take their own notes? Maybe Phil knows...

Thanks Dan! I wanted to respond to your post from last week, but didn't want to seem like I was "late to the party".

Sewing said...

Papias:

I have the note-riddled bulletins for every sermon going back to the one that saved me, but they're in a couple of piles at home that don't see the light of day again (usually) once the weekly small groups are over and done with.

That's why I started marking up my Bible directly, so I wouldn't forget some of the key exegetical points our pastor keeps raising! (Even the application sometimes makes it in there.)

David: Fascinating. I rarely anticipate correctly where our pastor is going to go with a passage, and like you, it's the most marked departures from what I'd guessed that convict me the most deeply.

DJP said...

You and David point to something I was very tempted to stick into the original post:

If you're pastor's doing verse-by-verse, read and think about the passage before the sermon. Prime the pump.

David said...

My dad used to mark up his bible, and after a few years, began to catch the preacher recycling sermons word for word. He'd tell him so, too (truth in love). Gave him the date and everything.

I, on the other hand, am not much of a note-taker. Bummer for me.

Ebeth said...

My sister has taken notes for years and has the notebooks to prove it. Not only has taking notes helped her focus on the sermons--her original reason for taking notes--she has built a great library to use when she's been asked to present a devotional or a lesson for a Sunday school class or just wanted to add to her own Bible study of a given passage.

Sacchiel said...

Thank you! I want to remember my First Love.

Keith B said...

Excellent post.

Thanks for the responsibility check. It runs through out the church in all areas.

Thanks again

Mark Van Der Molen said...

Great post! The "responsibility index" reminds me of what Jonathan Edwards said about preaching not being in vain, even for those who will not listen to it:

"Those who thus refuse to hear the Word of God that is preached to them in this world will regard it in another world. Now the Word of God doesn't take any hold of them; it doesn't affect them. But then it will take hold of them......
When wicked men com to be in hell, then they will believe what God's messengers said to them was true, or rather they will know it to be so. When they were told what a dreadful punishment God threatened, it did not seem to them a reality. They took little notice of it. But now it will be brought to their minds how they were warned and what counsels they had been given, what offers and invitations were made to them. And now they will be of another mind about them. They'll regard them now. They'll be sensible now of how great importance they were, when it will be too late to any other purpose but to sharpen and envenom the sting of their consciences and augment their misery".

DJP said...

That minds me of:

"The one who despises the word will be in debt to it,
"But the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded" (Proverbs 13:13)

(Hm; maybe that should have been in the post.)

ezekiel said...

"And as I say to anyone who offers the "I can't memorize" excuse, if you know enough English to understand the challenge and offer the excuse, you can memorize."

I would go a step farther and say that you can't help but to memorize. After all, you are not the one doing the memorizing....Heb 8:10. I didn't think I could memorize either but as I read the 3rd time through...the passages begin to start coming from...memory. He is writing on my heart...

A careful read of Ezekeil will show you how he got the WORD. He ate the scroll.....We are instructed to eat and drink Him (John 6:53-58). Failure to do so results in spiritual famine and ultimately spritual death.

Keith, the answer to the problem (and you are not the only one that has it) is the WORD. I don't know Dan and at the risk of offending him I would tell you that he is not any better a man than you or me. What makes him so powerful is the WORD speaking through him. That is where his authority comes from, his strength. There is no one, no better preacher than you if you stand on the WORD and the WORD speaks through you. It is not you, your presentation, your whatever...if you were called, you were gifted...just give them the WORD...Feed His sheep. You start doing that and the folks that are going to the mega will be back. They get even more famished down there....They are just wandering in the wilderness looking for food.....If you start changing your message to compete with the mega, you will starve them the same way they do....

Give Him to them....Feed His sheep....

S Ewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

This is the system I use in my memorization work:

www.fbcdurham.org/FCKeditor/editor/plugins/mediamanager/get.php?id=101

I've done Ephesians, Philippians, James, and 1 & 2 Peter. It's a tremendous blessing, though it does take some time. I plan on doing Galatians next. Sometime when I am no longer in school I hope to do Romans.

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

Let me say this about Keith's comment, and it is said in a spirit friendly to all.

Keith: I feel your pain.

Others: It is all well to speak glibly of what Keith "ought" to do and think and feel, when you do IT Support, or drive a truck, or crunch numbers. Your job and job expectations are fairly well-defined, perhaps your "market" is stable, and your results are easily-measured.

Not so with pastors, particularly pastors with dependents. Yes, their ultimate concern must be to be faithful to the Lord, and that overrides all. But if you aren't one, you shouldn't lecture too glibly about just doing what's right and not caring about the consequences — when those consequences directly affect people utterly dependent on you, under God.

It's got to be tempting to non-pastors to be Job's friends to discouraged pastors. I can just imagine how Keith might hear some of the well-intentioned advice directed to him here.

What I'd say is hang in there, brother. Keep your eye on the face of Christ and the eternal prize, on doing what you (and your family) will be grateful that you had done in 100, 1000, 100,000 years. Sometimes what your sheep want you to do isn't what they need you to do. That's when they're most dependent on you to be faithful.

threegirldad said...

Jason:

Even Dan's corrected version of the link goes to a non-existent page. I'm very interested in what you were recommending. I searched all over that church's website, and finally found this PDF file. Is that what you were recommending, or was it something else?

DJP said...

Argh! Thanks, 3GD. I deleted mine. Don't know how I did that; it worked before!

S Ewing said...

Keith and Dan: Please forgive me. I debated whether to delete my comment as soon as I'd posted it, but pridefully decided to let it stand. I have since deleted it, but let the record show that I was one of those tossing out glib advice.

But I will repost the link I included in my comment to the Johns Piper and MacArthur, who offer encouragement to may pastors who toil away tending to small flocks, about half or 2/3 through this audio/video: A Conversation with John Piper and John MacArthur.

S Ewing said...

"...to the many pastors who toil away...."

beachbirdie said...

The article on Scripture memory is a good one. Thanks for the link.

I can't affirm strongly enough the admonition to *memorize* scripture. I first got serious about it a number of years ago as my children began to advance in an AWANA program. We used to challenge each other by randomly announcing a verse reference and seeing who could say the verse. I learned simply by helping them, and found that indeed an "old dog" can learn!

That challenged me to work my way through the books my kids were learning. When I was called on to begin teaching Bible lessons to the kids, I found the memorized scripture popping up at appropriate times, and when encouraging younger women at my church the memorized scripture came easily into our conversations.

It is work, it takes effort and time but memorizing Bible passages is time well spent. Our lives can't help but grow towars greater sanctification when our minds are full of the Word!

tck said...

Thanks for this post. I heard a Danish preacher once said the exact same things on the last meeting at a Bible Camp. "When you hear this preaching, your heart is either more softened or more hardened".

Whew.

But thanks. :)

S Ewing said...

Haha!

ezekiel said...

djp,

I certainly wasn't trying to be glib. Sorry I sounded that way. Lets try it this way.

" The pastor of average preaching ability must face the reality that to preach the gospel faithfully and not resort to the worldly methods of the seeker sensitive church will result in stable or declining church membership. We live in a society were more people will leave your church if you preach the gospel than come to it. Because most of us pastor 2 Tim. 4:3-4 congregations the temptation to adopt worldly methods is tremendous, it takes great moral courage to remain faithful to the gospel."

...yes, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel were really packing them in....Offerings were...New members numbered what? Where would we be today if these fellows had shaped their message to the world?

If God called you, touched your lips with a burning coal..made you eat the scroll...blinded you on the road to Damascus..can you be anything other than "faithful to the Gospel?


"I pray that the unfaithfulness of the laity will not so discourage faithful ministers that the famine in our land will only grow worse."

Take a look at Jeremiah 24 and see if you think your prayers will be granted. Are they in and according to His will? Woe am I...sound familiar?

Now let's move on to this.

"Your job and job expectations are fairly well-defined, perhaps your "market" is stable, and your results are easily-measured.

Isn't yours? "preach the word, in season, out of season". Isn't your market stable? A whole world full of sinners. What is changing?

As far as measuring goes, I am measured by my customers, suppliers, government officials...my family. Who measures you and your results? In both our cases though, which measurement is the only one we realy have to measure up to? Is it the WORD?

"Not so with pastors, particularly pastors with dependents. Yes, their ultimate concern must be to be faithful to the Lord, and that overrides all. But if you aren't one, you shouldn't lecture too glibly about just doing what's right and not caring about the consequences — when those consequences directly affect people utterly dependent on you, under God."

Luke 14:26-28
De 33:8-9
Mat 10:37-42
Mat 19:28-30
Mark 10:29-31 (with persecutions...)

Paul was a tent maker. Said something like "stay in the condition you were called, go ahead and marry but you will have trouble in the flesh...but he tried to spare us...

I had a lot rather get a job and even pay to preach the WORD than I would answer to all the blood on my hands for telling them what they want to hear or changing the Gospel to make it more palatable to chew on....

EZ 3,18,33,....18:24

EZ 3:7 But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted. 8 Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. 9 Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.”
10 Moreover He said to me: “Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. 11 And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear, or whether they refuse.”

EZ 3:17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: 18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

He is not talking to the world here folks...he is talking to the house of Israel...the church....

Keith...hopefully this doesn't come off as glib advise but something that cuts a little deeper. Give them the WORD. Last one out turns the light off. Then go get a job till the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled...judging by the way we are repeating Israel's error today, that time can't be far off...