by MICAH LANG
The worship band had just finished singing “I Stand Amazed” and I, along with 800 pastors, church leaders, and members gathered for the Vision New England Conference sat down as Pastor Tim Keller walked up to the podium.
Over the course of the day, Keller engaged all of us with what he had to say. Everyone was completely enamored with the wisdom that came from his heart. As I left, I felt fired up and motivated to go out and do something BIG for Jesus.
The very next day, I sat down in my seat and the pastor of my local church got up to speak. My pastor is great, but somehow, there was something not quite so motivating about the sermon. To be honest, I felt disappointed. I knew I shouldn’t, but the day before, I had heard powerful preaching that combined truth with passion and inspired me. There was something different about this.
I think many of us can relate to this. Many of us go to big conferences, come back to our own churches and think, “How come the preaching doesn’t quite measure up to the same level that I just experienced?
Instead of becoming dissatisfied with our churches and forsaking them to listen to podcasts of our favorite “celebrity” preachers, I would like to suggest a couple of thoughts to consider.
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My initial thought when reading Micah’s post was that I agree with the first two points in his article, which are basically aimed at pastors. Not everybody is called to be a pastor. And of the many who are, not all of them are anointed to preach. Some are just called to shepherd. Like the author says, there’s no verse that says a pastor needs to be an orator. In fact, some of the most pastoral people I’ve ever encountered or let speak into my life did it from a personal involvement in my life and not from a pulpit platform.
We’ve become so accustomed to church as an attractional weekly event that we do things that are aimed to attract crowds. There’s been a subtle gauge of success that’s come along over the last few decades that says size and numbers are what indicates success. The only side effect of that is we then resort to doing things that will draw the crowds so that we can attain large numbers.
Let’s face it, the more gifted you are as a communicator, the more successful you’ll be at this aspect of preaching.
The fact of the matter is that there was a time when the church did not need fancy worship bands, visually appealing buildings, and eloquent speakers. Jesus used to be enough. We were given a task as a Body of Believers to go and make disciples of all the nations.
What We Can Expect When it’s All About The Event
Too many of us in the West have fallen for the devil’s lie that world missions is merely optional and not an actual command we’ve been given (Matthew 28:18:-20). As a result, our focus has shifted and we’re all about the Sunday morning event and entertaining the local flock. Again, this is just a generalization but I know a big name preacher who if I mentioned him by name you might wonder what fault I’d find but he says the Sunday morning event is the most important thing for a pastor. That followed by the church’s webpage which is second in priority. This is just one example that shows our priorities are all about the meeting and crowds.
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There’s a pastor close to my age who has had phenomenal success in planting a church that has grown exponentially and become one of the fastest growing mega churches in the United States as of this writing. The first time I visited his website however, there was a featured picture slider on the homepage, and the most prominent picture in it was taken from behind him on a stage so that the camera could catch the entire large audience he was preaching to. I thought if I was not visiting the church’s website I could mistakenly think this guy was a rock star performing for a large stadium.
When we’ve come to treat preaching ministry like we would rock concert events, it’s inevitable that we’ll start measuring success and giftedness in very similar ways. Not everybody is called or anointed to pastor a large mega church. Heck not everybody is called to pastor a local church with fewer than 200 people. It therefore makes sense not everybody will have the same platform or preaching style.
Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should
I have a lot I could say to this article, but to keep it brief allow me to flip the coin and say that likewise you can be a gifted orator and effective communicator and not actually be anointed by God for that role.
It could be that you’re very entertaining, but God has not called you to be a shepherd leader or pulpit minister. In fact, what good is it if you can preach a very “powerful” but in the scheme of eternity, nobody is impacted? What does it matter if you can fill stadiums if you aren’t carrying words of the Lord that come directly from the throne of God piercing to the dividing of both soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb 4:12-13)? You can draw a crowd, but can you cast out a demon?
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The problem with reading articles like this is it comes across like the gauge of a pastor is how well he can preach. A famous revivalist once said that when it comes to preaching he merely set himself on fire and people came to watch him burn.
It’s said that the late Leonard Ravenhill once told his son,
“Be careful when you preach, because if you don’t have a word from God, you are not only wasting your hour but as many hours that are sitting in the pews.”
For this reason I’ve gotten in front of a few groups on occasion and admitted I didn’t feel I had anything from God to share with them and that we best find another way to use that time together.
Since moving to Peru, I’ve had to modify my public speaking style a lot. Not just by learning Spanish and doing it in a language that’s not native to me, but in the sense that often times I can’t go “as deep” as I think I could or should. I can’t use computer analogies that make sense to me but might fly over the head of people who come from the jungle and don’t know how to operate one, let alone know what RAM is compared to disc space. Sometimes something that is simple for me is “yesterday’s manna” but has a profound impact on the listeners that I didn’t expect.
In the end, I think we need to redefine our definition of boring. God might not feel the same way.
Leave your thoughts or disagreements below. Let’s explore this together!