Sunday, August 9, 2009

A different kind of Sunday night mind purge.

Usually on Sunday nights I write about what happened during the previous week, but I want to do something different with this post. Several weeks ago, on the morning of Sunday, July 19th, I had the honor and privilege of bringing a message to the Del Sol Church family, and it was an incredible experience for me. I've had many people, even three weeks later, commend me on my message three weeks ago, so I want to write about my thoughts from that experience.

I suppose they're convictions of mine, really, about preaching:

- When I preach, I have to present the Gospel in a compelling manner EVERY time. No exceptions. If that were to be the last message I ever preached, I would want it to be known as a message where I told people about the life that only Jesus Christ can give. And since I have no guarantee of tomorrow, EVERY time I preach could be the last time, so I just have to preach the Gospel every time. And for me, talking about the Gospel just never gets old!

Every time we gather on Sunday mornings, someone's "one" is there. The "one" son or daughter or friend that they've been praying for months would come to church. The "one" person in their life who they finally worked up the nerve to invite to church. The "one" neighbor or coworker who finally started showing interest in God and the things of God, and who finally agreed to come to church. So you can see that the stakes are way too high to not present the Gospel every time.

- "Solidly Biblical, Intensely Practical." That's the motto of the School of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. I read that statement on their website awhile back when I was looking at the grad school program, and that statement really resonated with me. Whenever I preach, I want it to be a message that is solidly Biblical because my main responsibility is to honor God and do justice to His Word, the Bible, handling it in a way that is right and proper and that glorifies Him. I also want my messages to be intensely practical, because I believe that to teach the Bible without teaching how to apply it to one's life is to do a great injustice to the listener.

Jesus, along with Paul and many others in the Bible never seemed to just preach the Bible and not tell people what to do with it. Jesus talked about being people of action ("doers"), not just listeners ("hearers"), and as a leader and preacher, I believe it is my God-ordained responsibility to teach the Word and to teach how to apply our lives to the Word. Solidly Biblical, Intensely Practical.

- The Church exists more for those who aren't there than for those that are, more for the lost, unsaved, nonbelieving outsider than for the already convinced. This brings great tension for those of us in church leadership - how do we reach wide (focus on the lost) and go deep (help believers grow) at the same time? It's a tension we have to deal with, but I honestly believe that Jesus would have a bent more towards the lost, but would also know that the mission of His Church cannot be accomplished without the committed believers who are willing to sacrifice to great extents for that cause.

Because of this, I believe that churches should do anything - ANYthing - short of sin to create environments where the lost can come in, connect with God in a personal way, understand a little more about what God says in the Bible, experience His love, and can have an opportunity to commit their lives to the Lord Jesus. That'll make things uncomfortable sometimes for us believers, especially traditionalists, but Jesus never said we should be comfortable - He said we should be committed.

- A next step should always be laid out clearly and concisely. This kind of goes along with the intensely practical thing but when I preach, I want people to know what they need to do next - whether that means they stop dating the Church and commit already by becoming a member, or if new believers need to be obedient to Christ and be baptized by immersion, or if those still exploring the faith should ask for more info so they can be better informed about Jesus and His Church, or if some need to commit their lives to Christ on the spot, before they leave the room.

Giving someone a clearly laid out next step is a vital part of showing them how to journey along with Christ, and those of us who are just a few steps further along on the journey should turn around and show those just beginning where to go next. Next steps are crucial in a message.

- The message shouldn't always try to make people feel better and leave happy. Oh I know that people get beat up in the world and that the Church should be a place of refuge, and I know most people will readily confess that they're not perfect and that they know they've messed up - but that's not an excuse not to present the truth. And the truth about the truth is that the truth sometimes hurts. I've recently stopped telling people I hope they have a good time at church, because maybe God doesn't want them to have a good time - maybe He wants them to be convicted like the dickens!

Maybe He wants to root out sin in their lives and is going to use what happens at that gathering to help do that. So maybe as a preacher, my goal should just be to honor God and preach what He leads me to preach, not what I think people need to hear. They need to hear what God wants them to hear, not what I want them to hear.

- If God doesn't show up, we're all wasting our time. We can't produce a move of God. We can facilitate it, we can prepare for it, we create an environment where hearts are open to His Spirit - but if it's not God, we're wasting our time and we might as well close up shop and go home. It's not about music, it's not about denominational label, it's not about what anyone wants or thinks. That's why I will not preach unless I have a couple of men pray for me first. I must have God's anointing, my words must be inspired by Him.

It's all God, or it's nothing - plain and simple.

Those are my basic convictions about what must go on when I preach. I sure hope and pray that those things happened when I preached 3 weeks ago, and I hope and pray they'll happen again each and every time I have the huge honor and privilege of standing in front of a crowd, preaching God's Word to them.

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