May 16, 2007

Weak Preaching

In the past 15 years, I have preached and taught more times than I can remember. I love to preach and teach. In fact, I feel it is a big part of my calling and gifting for ministry.

But I have never experienced what Wesley experienced…

On Sunday, February 5, 1738, Wesley wrote in his journal, “In the afternoon I was desired to preach at St. John the Evangelist's. I did so on those strong words, ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.’ I was afterward informed many of the best in the parish were so offended that I was not to preach there any more.”

Again on Sunday, February 12, Wesley wrote, “I preached at St. Andrew's, Holborn on ‘Though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.’ Oh, hard sayings! Who can hear them? Here, too, it seems, I am to preach no more.”

I have never been asked to not come back. Many have probably wished I would never come back, but I have not been formally asked.

I wonder what he said that caused so much dissension. Was it his theological stance? Was it their spiritually deadness and they didn’t like being challenged? Was it that he was boring? Was it the right message at the wrong time?

Wesley seems to have thought the people were rejecting the Word of God.

I think we as preachers sometimes misunderstand what is going on. We think we have the next best sermon since the one on the mount. Or, we think this sermon is really going to whack them upside the head…And then it all falls flat. Or we mistake aggressive or passionate preaching for Spirit empowered preaching. (One book that changed my preaching forever was Preaching in the Power of the Spirit by Dennis Kinlaw.)

Was it the people? Did it need more prayer? Was it hyped more than it deserved?

I have found that my impressions of “This is going to be good” and it actually being "good" are rarely on target. What most often happens is that I walk out of the pulpit (or whatever I was preaching behind) and feel like an absolute failure. Then, someone comes up weeping about the impact of the message on them, or I receive an e-mail about how a person has been thinking about what I said all week. The times I feel that I really gave it to them or that I feel I spoke well on a subject are the times that are greeted with a simple, "Well done." And we are fooling ourselves if we think we are going to hit it out of the park week after week.

Paul’s statement about God being found in our weakness is no more prominent than when we step before a gathering and proclaim the Word of God. It is often in the “weak” moments that Christ is most glorified, and not in our moments of glory.

1 comment:

  1. I've been told countless times that what I said was offensive. So many times I've gone back and looked at it (and many times it was printed words in an email, etc) and had friends of mine look at it and shrug. We couldn't place it. Anymore I know how biting and unwelcome truth truly is. When we stand there and speak pure truth, someone IS going to be offended. It's just the way it is, and as pastors, preachers whatever... we have to be okay with that. Even being unpopular amongst our peers and those we look up to. After all, it's about the truth and the Kingdom right?

    Just keep planting seeds. God waters them. It's just our job to plant them.