26 January 2009

Carpe diem, preacherdude

by Dan Phillips

I can't tell you how many times I've sat in an assembly and thought this, in the past 35+ years since my conversion: Dude, this critical moment, with these assembled people, on this your one shot — and you do that with it?

Let me unpack.

To me, as a preacher, one of the most stirring, throat-grabbing-and-shaking passages in the Bible is the one that starts this way:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom... (2 Timothy 4:1)
What? You charge me what? I'm sitting up, wide-awake, alert, holding my breath. With an attention-getter like that, what is the apostle going to say? Next verse:
...PREACH THE WORD!
There it is. That is our defining task. That is what we must do.

There may be pastoral activities that are nice, and even complementary — but this is not one of them. This is a must. This is definitional. This is non-negotiable. Fail at this, and you fail at pastoral ministry.

So. This guy gets up in the pulpit, right? He's got all these people, these immortal souls, literally one heartbeat away from an irreversible eternity, and he... does what?

This is the critical moment. These people have re-arranged their calendars. They've altered their schedules. They've said "No" to every activity but this. They're just sitting there. Most or all of them are quiet. You've got a minute to grab their attention, and fix it on something. What do you do?

Maybe there are 5 people, maybe there are 500 or 5000. Maybe you've got 5 minutes, maybe you've got 50. Doesn't matter. What do you do?

This may be the only time they've been in a church, about to hear someone who claims to believe the Word, the Gospel. Maybe they're there because a friend or relative has prayed for them for months, for years, for decades. Finally, they're in a (professedly) Christian church, intending to listen to whatever a (professedly) Christian preacher is about to say. It is literally a critical moment, a moment of crisis, of judgment. Angels attend! The Triune God is there! Endless ages will reverberate with the impact of what happens next. These people are accountable, you are accountable. All eyes are on you.

What do you do? What do you do with that priceless, pivotal, unbearably freighted opportunity?

I can tell you what some do.

This one guy — he tells jokes. Now, anyone who's heard me preach knows I've no problem with humor in the service of a Biblical message. The Bible does it, Spurgeon did it, I do it.

But that isn't the aim here. That isn't the purpose. No, these are jokes with the sole purpose of making the joker look cute and clever and witty. "Oh, pleaselike me," these jokes wail. "Love me. Think I'm cool!" The audience chuckles, and has a good time. Some of them go off to Hell chuckling. Others become a reproach to their professed Lord as they do what sheep characteristically do, without a shepherd.

Then there's this other guy, who gets up and chats. He shares, he randomly free-associates. Word flow, unfiltered, from imagination to mouth. He poses questions to which he offers no answer. Then he shrugs and wanders on. People leave with never a "Thus says the Lord" to challenge their thinking and point them to Christ.

Yet a third fellow tells stories, as if Garrison Keillor were his model for preaching rather than Isaiah or Paul, Wesley, Whitfield, Spurgeon, or Ryle. They are stories of which the only point is the story itself, or the cleverness of the storyteller. They serve the end of entertaining the audience, or provoking its admiration, or filling time inoffensively. They'll go off to Hell, or to shame Christ, with a nice story in their ears.

Still another gent weaves a blurry tapestry of vague, gauzy religious sentiments that could equally have been preached by a Unitarian, a pantheist, a New Ager, a Mormon, a Christian Scientist, a Roman Catholic, or a secular motivational speaker. Nobody's offended. Nobody. People like him, they think he's clever. Well, good. Because that was his goal: to be liked. Mission Accomplished. He has his reward. They like him... until eternity dawns, and they see how miserably he failed them. But for now, nobody's offended or upset.

Well, not everybody is not offended or upset. If I'm sitting there, you can lay good money I'm offended. (It isn't gambling when it's a sure thing.)

You can bet I'm sitting there fuming, and internally shouting these words: "You had that pulpit, these people, this opportunity — and you did that with it? What, in the name of all that's holy, were you thinking? You may never see these people again! Nobody may ever see them again! That may have been your one opportunity — and you do that with it? Why did you even get up there? Why are you even a pastor?"

Once again: it is a crucial moment. Vast ages of eternity hold their breath.

What do you do with it?

Preacherdude: best to ask yourself that question now, before it is asked of you on that Day.

We've already got a peek at the Teacher's Guide. We know the answer we'd better be able to give. What is it? Say it with me:

Preach the Word.

Now do it.

Dan Phillips's signature

62 comments:

Randy Talley said...

Oh, c'mon, Dan. Tell us what you really think! Oh, and preach on!

Not to digress too far here, but in 1987 (yes, it left that much of an impression - and I was only 17 at the time) I was in a service where the pastor (supposedly) preached from Matthew 16:13-16. This is the passage where Jesus asked the disciples who "men" and "you" said He was.

The title of the message was "Who Was This Jesus?"... and the pastor never answered the question. I would say I'm still bewildered about his choice, but it became pretty obvious over time that the man was not a believer.

Sad.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Or uses a text to kick off a topical sermon wherein the answers given are from the well of the preacher's own opinions, rather than the text itself. Why would I want to hear the preacher's opinions when I have God's thoughts on the subject readily at hand?

Now I know there is the point of application. But that can also become an excuse for the preacher to preach his pet peeves.

Frank Turk said...

I think that this class is often an elective in Seminary rather than a requirement.

The Blainemonster said...

Ha! I just knew "tell a joke" would be the first answer; I've witnessed that so many times. I absolutely hate that. What a sermon intro. What are we afraid of? Faith still comes by hearing THE MESSAGE right (and I don't mean that loose paraphrase either)? Good grief.

johnMark said...

Dan,

I'm a bit unclear. What exactly are you trying to say? :)

Along these lines I've wondered something for a while now. Is the preaching the word deficient at times because pastors are afraid of losing their jobs?

I've wondered if this is the reason why unhealthy churches might stay unhealthy.

Mark

p.s. My word verification was "snessin" so I tried to be delicate.

donsands said...

The preaching of the Word of our Lord, is there anything quite like it for the soul of a child of Christ?

Yesterday, my pastor preached a Scriptural sermon on the Sanctity of Life from Exodus 4:11, and it was a powerful message, mainly about God, and who He is, but also about being pro-life with a biblical understanding.

What a precious treasure the Bible is. And so many today are blind, and see the Bible as another book.

What a precious blessing to have a pastor who preaches the Word, every Word from the Bible.

Thanks for another outstanding post.

Rileysowner said...

One of the things I attempt to keep in mind as I prepare the sermon and preach it is that I am a dying man, preaching to dying men. It certainly helps keep ones mind on what is important, preaching the Word and pointing to Christ.

In some ways I am glad I am not good a telling jokes or even telling stories. It certainly removes the temptation to simply do those things instead of preaching the Word.

Tim Wallander said...

Well said! You just described over 90% of the churches in our area. Unfortunately, it seem many pastors have a higher view of self than thay do of God and His Word. Sad!

Rob Peck said...

Thanks Dan! I am not a preacherdude. I aspire to be some day though! I appreciate your hard words. I love that you are in love with the Gospel of our Lord. It is so important to preach the word even if you are not a preacherdude! The great commission says so! I may not be a preacherdude yet, but I am doing my best to be a faithfuldude!

Blessings Brother!

Stefan said...

Well, Dan, you're comparing apples and oranges.

There are two religions at play here, aren't there? There's biblically-faithful Christianity, and there's this ersatz belief system called "Christianity."

You can't possibly hold ersatz, nominal "Christianity" (that doesn't even deserve the claim the name) to the real thing. That's just unfair.

Stefan said...

"the claim the name" ==> "to claim the name"

chrish said...

Sometimes I've been known to start off with, "Thank you for this terrifying opportunity." People chuckle; I'm being serious.

I have never been more nervous than when I have preached. I have been to job interviews, been called to the carpet, been on dates, proposed marriage; nothing compares to the seriousness of standing up there and risking doing dishonour to the Word of God. I think someone talks about millstones, necks, and oceans for those who mislead God's children... somewhere in the back, I'm sure.

DJP said...

Well-said.

Solameanie said...

Wow. Just . . . wow.

In a church I once attended, the platform was dominated by a large pulpit -- something of a rarity these days. If you approached this pulpit as would a preacher, there was a small gold plaque affixed to the wood where it would be seen by any preacher that stood there.

Sir, we would see Jesus.

Mind, it didn't say "we would see Henny Youngman or George Carlin." It said "Jesus."

As the Beach Boys once sang, "Wouldn't it be nice?"

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Preach the word meand give the sense of the text, not what you think it sayys, nor what you want it to say, but give the right sense of the text and context.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz

donsands said...

"Mind, it didn't say "we would see Henny Youngman or George Carlin."

Amen.

But if someone is gifted with a humorous quality, and he can instill it within the sermon, it can be quite encouraging, I think.

I suppose the Lord allows for personality, with checks and balances of course.

I am edified by all sorts of preachers, but the bottom line is they fear God, and have a great joy in preaching His Word, which they love.

"O how I love Thy law! it is my meditation all the day." Psalm 119:97

Stefan said...

Donsands wrote:

"I suppose the Lord allows for personality, with checks and balances of course."

Witness the unique styles of the three dozen different writers of plenary inspired Scripture, all writing under the singular guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Rachael Starke said...

Wow. Somebody had an extra bowl of Wheaties this morning!

Reminded me of our hunt for a church leading me to one very nearby (the goal was to find one that I could invite my new neighbors to). It was Father's Day, and the service consisted, I kid you not, of the entire elder board riding down the center aisle on Harleys, followed by the pastor talking about his earthly father and all the cool things he'd learned.

Jesus' name didn't come up once.

I wrote a (slightly :)) less fiery note on the little New Visitors card saying that I had come today to hear about my Heavenly Father, and to find a place where I could bring unbelievers to hear about Jesus, and that I would never bring them here.

I left my address, my phone numbers and email address.

No one called.

Alison said...

Amen and amen! And, yet my husband and I have felt that we are alone in this same assessment. But, a little help here for the lay people...how do we express this to our friends and family that seem content to call such lack of preaching as "giving the Word"? How do we present the problem and explain the matter in a Biblical approach without being harsh or unloving or gracious? And, I'm not talking about avoiding the truth, but do you have any pointers for how to take that truth to them in love?

Solameanie said...

Rachael,

Wow. What is this thing with motorcycles down the sanctuary aisle? Our former pastor tried the same thing a couple of years ago.

Did you catch the word "former?"

Enough said.

Mike Riccardi said...

Dan,

I hear you man. I think it's especially excruciating to those of us who aspire to have our own pulpits but don't.

I was sitting screaming these very same things inside myself yesterday. Here's a question, though. I can't just send my pastor the link to this post, can I? I mean, I think it's an awesome post for him to read. But it would seem very... shall we say... suggestive of negativity.

DJP said...

I was sitting screaming these very same things inside myself yesterday. ...I can't just send my pastor the link to this post, can I?

Um, I think not with this comment in the meta!

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Alison,
They don't want the truth. Find yourself another Church.

Frank Turk said...

Can I throw something out here which, I think, will add something to think about here?

A lot of the comments so far have intimated that the reason a preachers would, for example, tell a joke to start his sermon would be a lack of sense toward the dignity and holiness of God and an elevated sense of self. I think in some cases this is true.

I think there is another reason someone would start off their sermon with a joke: a misunderstanding of why they are all gathered there in the first place. See -- if the community is gathered together to have a good time, or have fun, or "celebrate" (in the vulgar meaning) something, then jokes are appropriate. We should have more jokes if that we we intend to do and are in fact called together to do.

But if we are instead called together to celebrate (in the liturgical meaning) Christ and Him crucified, and are there out of loving & grateful obedience rather than some misguided sense of having a party, the sermon becomes something more sobering and sober-minded.

In that, in what way(s) would a more-frequent, more-serious participation in the Lord's Supper bring us to being a better church?

DJP said...

Well, let me interject this into Frank's interjection: I said —

"Now, anyone who's heard me preach knows I've no problem with humor in the service of a Biblical message. The Bible does it, Spurgeon did it, I do it."

An opening joke can get the guard down to lay in a very solid, serious, sober point. Though it isn't a sermon, I might adduce this post as an example of trying to use humor for that exact effect.

Okay, back to Frank's question.

Frank Turk said...

Alison --

With due respect to Dr. Foltz (and I wholly understand why he said what he said, and have sympathy for it), I think that if you have even a vaguely-social relationship with your pastor and you can talk to him about "things" (family, home, life stuff), you can read this book and then offer it to him as a suggestion:

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, by John Piper.

You cannot command him to change, but if you (preferably, your husband) can offer him encouragement that the pulpit is not the place for moralizing (both hard moralizing and the soft moralizing of "life coaching") but for the antidote to moralizing, which is the Cross, perhaps he will see for himself what he might do better.

He probably doesn't have a church the size of Bethlehem in Minneapolis. If anything, that should be an encouragement for him to at least think about this stuff.

Demian Farnworth said...

Dude, you been reading Horton's Christless Christianity? Better yet, I think you've just been trained right.

Thank you for the encouraging word. This is a cornerstone post for me. One I will share generously and shamelessly.

Solameanie said...

I can't help but think of a well known West Coast pastor that shall remain nameless, who used Scripture to make a very vulgar joke in reference to a question asked by his hearers. Things like that make my skin crawl and even pale in the face just a bit.

I don't mind jokes in the pulpit, but when they blantantly misuse God's Word and/or approach blasphemy, I think we need to draw the line. You'd think a pastor would understand that and be a bit careful, ever mindful of how they used to tie a rope to the leg of the priests who entered the Holy of Holies in case they were struck dead.

The Twilight Troll said...

This article describes the 10 churches I've attended while church shopping lately.

It's frustrating. I attended an Evangelical Free church prior to moving to this city and that's the church my wife and I enjoyed so we tried to find one where we moved. The preacher at the E-Free closest to my home is nothing more than a list of jokes and football analogies. The next closest E-Free has a great pastor but it's a borderline mega church so it's hard to build relationships.

We've tried several Baptist churches. One was big but not too big; however, it was part of the emergent church philosophy. They had Tae Kwon Do and Jujitsu classes members could attend "if" you brought a friend and the message was nothing to shake a stick at. Another church seemed all about the pastor. He liked to yell at the congregation a lot and never had time to meet one-on-one to ask questions even with my flexible schedule.

We have been visiting a church that's part of the Great Commission of Churches (GCC or GCM) and it's better but I'm learning that there's issues with how the pastors "manage" the lives of the people as described at a site called: gcmwarning.com. Besides that they're not entirely Calvinist in views.

This weekend I think I found a Baptist church that I like. The preacher spoke from the word more than any preacher I've heard in years and it was great. It lacks some other things but I'm looking to be fed the word most of all and that's the most important thing.

God Bless.

Frank Turk said...

I know what I'm going to post about this week, and for the rest of the year.

Don't say I didn't warn you ...

Stefan said...

Frank wrote:

"In that, in what way(s) would a more-frequent, more-serious participation in the Lord's Supper bring us to being a better church?"

As long as the "more serious" has equal weight with "more frequent." The church in Corinth celebrated the Lord's Supper frequently enough, but not in a way that honoured Christ.

I have to say the day I was most scared (in a sense) to be in church was the day I served communion for the first time. Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah showed what can happen when you behave disrespectfully in the presence of God.

DJP said...

I'll take it on:

...in what way(s) would a more-frequent, more-serious participation in the Lord's Supper bring us to being a better church?

There's no Biblical evidence that it would.

Paul never faults a NT church for the (in)frequency of their celebration of this ordinance. It is mentioned unambiguously, if memory serves, in only one epistle, said epistle not being one of the three letters that deal explicitly with church ministry per se.

OTOH, the ministry of the word, and the importance of sound doctrine, are mentioned and/or exampled repeatedly and all over the place.

So, I would say:

A healthy ministry of the Word would include reverent observances of the Lord's Supper as an outgrowth.

Stressing the outgrowth will not produce its cause.

chrish said...

Sure. I don't think "serious" needs to mean "severe," but simply, "weighty." That's a big deal, standing up there at the puplit, about to (hopefully) preach the Word.

An appropriate joke can set the listener (and the speaker) at ease, to help everyone relax just a moment, and facilitate preaching.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Misbehavior at The Lord's Table resulted in physical death [1 Corinthians 11].

The Lord's table is to be administer when the Pastor sees that the church is spiritually ready for it.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz

sbrogden said...

Preacher dude of the church we recently left told tired jokes that had been around a million times that most often had nothing to do with the Text. He is an expositional dispensationlist. As I left, I encouraged him to be more concerned with preaching and teaching the Word of God and less concerned with being an entertainer.

The church we meet with now and will soon join as members has two elders who both preach. Each does an excellent job and IF a funny story is told (only one story at the most is told in a given Sunday), it will be short and it will explicitly on point with the main point of the message.

This week, the preacher started with talking about how boys had certain kinds of games, including one called "mercy" - wherein you lock hands with a friend and try to squeeze and twist until he screams for mercy.

The text (we are working through Genesis) was Gen 19:12-14 and the message was God's mercy and how we must understand it from the Bible and not from our experiences. It was a most excellent service - music, reading the Word, prayer, sermon, communion, fellowship. How wonderful to be in a Biblical church! My soul rejoices - even with the conviction of sin that pierces me weekly.

How I thank the Lord for these two men, and ask Him to guard them and keep them.

P.S. I ride a motorcycle (not a Harley) and I barf when the folks at Fellowship of the Woodlands (which I call Cirque de' Shook) pulls stunts such as Rachael decribed.

trogdor said...

As I was thinking about this post, I was trying to figure out why someone would waste a pulpit in that manner. Why would someone tell jokes or stories or empty platitudes instead of preaching the word of God? There are certainly many possibilities, such as a desire to be liked or cool and relevant, or maybe just laziness. But I think the most fundamental cause is that they don't believe the few verses immediately preceding this charge:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

They don't believe that the sacred writings make you wise for salvation. They don't believe that it's truly the word of God. Or maybe they do believe it - but think that maybe God's word needs their help, that somehow it's not actually profitable unless it's fortified by the wisdom of Keanu Reeves or the comedic stylings of Rebo and Zooty.

Whatever the specifics, failure to preach the word is ultimately a lack of faith. Perhaps they are ashamed because they don't know whom they have believed, and are not convinced that he is able to guard the deposit until that day, so they don't follow the pattern of sound words taught by Paul in faith and love.

PreacherBill said...

Great post,

I struggle with the non-expositor myself. Listening to the eiso- instead of the exegesis.

What a pain.

Thanks.

Morris Brooks said...

Many of these pastors preach sermons like that because that is what the people want to hear. I am not taking up for those pastors, because their charge, their responsibility is to preach the word; but we are told that in the last days people will not stand for sound doctrine, but will accumulate teachers in accordance to their own desires. In response to that, there will always be men who will give them what they want to hear. It is indeed a two sided coin.

In addition to preachers who will preach the word, the people should want to hear the word and receive the word.

Rick Frueh said...

"In that, in what way(s) would a more-frequent, more-serious participation in the Lord's Supper bring us to being a better church?"

It would run the risk of being more Biblica, more early church-esque, more redemptive minded, more frogiveness seeking, and more sensitive to God's presence.

But alas, time and convenience blocks our path.

Rick Frueh said...

"Misbehavior at The Lord's Table resulted in physical death [1 Corinthians 11]."

And that was a bad thing? Refusing to observe the Lord's Supper to the entire congregation to avoid God's judgment is unbiblical. Paul never said the pastor is who decides when it is observed, he, in I Corinthians, just explained God's judgment and how we should approach the communion with God's approval. Paul never instructed any church not to observe it regardless of the spiritual condition of the church.

We as elders obey God's Word and God will deal with His people.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

When a local assembly is in a low spiritual condition, to partake of the lord's table is to do it in an unworthy manner, causing God to chasten it.
The Pastor or Elders, who are the spiritual leaders of the church, seeing the condition there are to decide whether or not it is to observe it.
As A Pastor, I have done so 4 or 5 times, also not to have a regular schedule is best. it says ''as oft as ye do it'' no set time or schedule. We are not to routinely worship the Lord.

Rick Frueh said...

I Cor.11:28 - But let a man examine himself, and sl let him eat of that braed and drink of that cup.

I believe the spiritual warning should be given by the pastor but the spiritual worthiness is up to the individual believer. Sometimes when the congregation has divisions, serving the Lord's Supper Biblically just may be a vehicle for repentance.

Rick Frueh said...

"We are not to routinely worship the Lord."

I believe the Sunday morning worship gathering could be considered routine. The schedule can be routine, the heart should be replowed every service...routinely. :)

Tim Bertolet said...

Dan,
That was really good. I really appreciated it. It's getting me geared up for Sunday already. Thank you.

Kim K. said...

I wonder if this could be a result of lack of training. We've had several pastor who "surrendered to preach" from the age of 7, 14 (from the womb!), etc and I think that leads these guys to think that since God tapped them to be preachers they just have to get up there and do it. Surely good preaching is a discipline learned over time along with much study.

DJP said...

My very-short response is it's both a gift and an art. Paul tells Timothy both that the Lord gave him his gift, and that he should work at it and make progress.

As I've said (somewhere), I think apprenticeship is the best and most Biblical course. Spurgeon never attended seminary, and he did passably well. But if one doesn't attend seminary, he'd better do at least the equivalent in spadework.

Steve Hopkins said...

As a pastor myself, I can't tell you how much I appreciate this thread. To many a pastor fails in this area and deny people the inspired word of God.

Many a pastor gives a nice "sermon" that has little to do with the text in context.

Preach the word. That is the imperative but it must also be seen in light of the indicative 2 Tim 3:16 2 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work

DJP said...

Yes, Steve.

I think every one of us who occupies a pulpit should mentally consider the mass of needs, questions, trials, temptations, misconceptions, worries, fears, weaknesses and sin-patterns that will be sitting before us, and we should ask ourselves a simple question:

"What do I have to give these people?"

And we should return the simple answer:

"NOTHING!!!"

I have NOTHING to give them. What they need is what GOD would give them through me - and that is His preached Word.

eastendjim said...

I am very blessed to have a pastor who "preaches the word" every week.

The next time I speak with him I really need to thank him for doing that.

Thanks Dan.

Dan S. said...

Thanks for that, Dan... just what this preacherdude needed to hear as I continue my sermon prep this week.

Stefan said...

I wouldn't have been saved without the faithful preaching of the Word.

We have been blessed with a senior pastor who preaches the Word in season and out of season week after week, but also with elders who explicitly charged him with that task from day one, and other pastors who can quite capably also teach faithfully from the pulpit.

stratagem said...

Anger management.

Gilbert said...

Even though Dan won't see this as it'ss bumped down, I just want to be on record to say thank you.

I sighed with relief as I read this. I'm not a preacher, but a small church lost its pastor in a two-church breakup. Not knowing the spiritual background of the members as this was my second time preaching, and first time at that church...I came to the same conclusion to what I should preach: The Word.

One person stared back at me like I was being graded for a final exam; the others, listening.

I figured out that I probably wasted most people's time; one couple had been married 61 years and apparently enjoyed hearing the Gospel again. But, I don't know about anyone else. I still wonder if it was worth it. I guess I'll find out in heaven...

Anyway, sorry for the tangent. Thanks, Dan!

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Gilbert,
You will never go wrong preaching the Word of God and The Gospel of His Grace. You discharged your commission well.

Your humility tells me that you did.
God bless you.

Bro. Paul Foltz DD

DJP said...

Thanks, Gil.

(BTW, we get emailed the comments, so we never miss them.)

J. Brian McKillop said...

On a road trip over the last 2 days a pastor friend and I were having this same discussion, so this post is timely.

I am not currently pastoring, so don't have regular opportunities to preach and miss it terribly.

Thank you for a wonderful post.

sbrogden said...

Rick said: "I believe the Sunday morning worship gathering could be considered routine. The schedule can be routine, the heart should be replowed every service...routinely. :)"

Amen and amen! This is what happens at the church my wife and I recently starting meeting with and will soon join. What an amazing work the Lord does through the preaching and teaching of His Word!

Zach West said...

While I understand and agree with the focus of this post, my mind can't help but wander to the broader application.

In other words, carpe diem can and should be applied to all aspects of every Christian's life, not just a pastor's. You know, the whole plank/speck thing.

I shudder to think of how many times I have come away from a sermon with a dissatisfied and critical take, only to pig out at lunch, go home, turn my brain off and absorb hours of meaningless football while vegged out on my couch.

It's moments like these that we all should have someone in our ears saying "Dude, this critical moment, with no guarantee of tomorrow, with billions of people unreached, unrepentant, and suffering, in this present moment which is your only certainty -- and you do that with it?"

donsands said...

"meaningless football"

Sometimes it is, and sometimes it means a lot to me.

I don't mind enjoying this life as a Christian. I do see the serious side of God's name being made famous throughout the earth. But I think we can have a balance with both.

For some, like the Apostle Paul, there's the high calling of the Word and prayer on a more constant basis. Peter, John, and the other once longshoremen now Apostles were called to the same.

I don't know if that makes sense really.

A Jam C said...

AMEN

reformed trucker said...

Amen Dan!!!

I spent over 8 years at 2 different churches that only served up "ear tickling fluff". The last church I was at for over 4 years, of which the last 2 years were spent searching for a new head pastor... I rode it out. After
some bad teaching by one of the elders in my apologetics class (predestination & free-will/moderate calvinist/regurgitated Geisler),
and hearing the new pastor preach
(just another tickler) I knew it was time to move on.

I now go to a reformed baptist church 1/2 hr. from my house(I think you know my pastor). We have no big building, no mega-programs,
nor any of the other bells & whistles, but...

EVERY SUNDAY IS LIKE A FEAST ON THE
WORD!!! You don't know how much I
appreciate the ability my pastor has to unpack deep biblical truths
& the time he invests to do so. If I had to drive 1 hour each way, I probably would. We need more men of God who are willing to do the hard work, and less "fluff dispensers"!

My wife finally stopped giving me grief about "wasting extra gas" to
go there. I told her if there was a church worth going to that was closer, I would, but there isn't.

Thanks for your bloggage, Dan. May you soon be granted a pulpit that you may boldly proclaim the truth from!

Blessings!

maunderings said...

Your words resonated more than I can say.
It was nearly two years ago that we wrestled with this very issue. The new Pastor of our church, a true "Heritage" church with a grand and storied history, meant so much to our family, particularly when we were going through difficult times with death and health issues. He's bright, well-spoken, and funny. He starts off virtually every sermon with a joke or a funny cute kid story. We love him and his family.
Alas. It's not that he never preached the Gospel, but rather it was highly selective.
Occasionally we heard the hard message of the Gospel, but most of the time we heard the "hard" message of loving one another and making hotdishes for those in need. First, however, he'd regale us with funny stories about his kids. In fact, he was forthright in his contention that you didn't need to preach the Good News every time, and that his reading of Hebrews 5 indicated that it was perhaps unbiblical to do so.

I met with him, and he was most gracious with his time. As a matter of fact, I used essentially the same scenario that you used in your post, Dan. There was a Baby Dedication with more new little ones than the church had seen in a long time. There were dozens of people in attendance who hadn't been there before. This was a golden opportunity to preach the Gospel. Instead, we heard more moralism, about what we need to do. Lots of focus on meeting one another's needs, rather than preaching about the need for salvation. The Pastor actually agreed with me that it would have been nice to present the Gospel at this service. He just didn't feel it necessary each time.

I mentioned my concerns with a retired Pastor who's near and dear to me. After he listened to our Pastor's sermons, he said, "You have a fine preacher there". Then this retired Pastor said, wistfully, "if only he had preached the Gospel..." That was my point!

Ultimately we made the heartbreaking decision to leave the church, to seek a place where our family and friends hear the Gospel, not more moralism. Incidentally, has anyone else noticed how moralism and legalism are two sides of the same coin? One tells you what you must do, while the other tells you what you can't do.
Eventually we found a small church close from our home. Unprepossessing. No flash. Just a small choir, no Praise Band, not even Powerpoint presentations. What it does offer instead, is solid preaching and teaching. No one walks away not hearing the word of God preached.