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10 Reasons Preaching Is Scary

Reasons to never let yourself become cavalier about your preaching.

Reasons to never let yourself become cavalier about your preaching.

By Chuck Lawless

Anybody who knows me probably knows I love to preach. I so clearly knew God’s calling many years ago that only disobedience would allow me to ignore preaching today.

To be candid, though, preaching scares me. Here’s why:

  1. I will answer to God for what I say. As a 13-year-old, I strongly sensed God’s guiding me: “I want you to preach My Word.” I know God will hold me accountable for every word I say, and He will not ignore any carelessness from my lips (Matt. 12:36-37). Recklessness in preaching is an invitation to judgment.
  1. What I do affects eternity. Here I am not suggesting that my preaching somehow trumps the sovereignty of God. On the contrary, I am simply aware that God uses the proclamation of His Word to save souls (Rom. 10:9-15). That truth means that preaching really does have an eternal impact.
  2. I may have only one opportunity to speak truth to a hearer. A nonbeliever (or a believer, for that matter) may sit under my preaching only one time. In the midst of a busy life, he/she may offer listening ears for only a few minutes. I will miss that one-time open door if my preaching wanders from the Word.
  3. It’s easier to talk about “stuff” than it is to teach the Word. Preaching is hard work. From personal exegesis of the text to public proclamation of the message, preachers must dig into the Word, soak in it, be cleansed by it and then deliver it. It’s just easier to use a few Bible verses as a launching pad to preach about “stuff” than to do the hard work of Bible exposition—and that reality scares me.
  4. At least for a few minutes, everybody is focused on me. Maybe I’m uniquely fallen, but I like the affirmations that come with preaching. For a short while, I am the “man of God” to whom others look for truth. Yes, I want my preaching to direct them to Jesus, but I must be honest with myself: Preaching frightens me because it can instead become a means to build my ego.
  5. I can preach in my own strength. I’ve been preaching for 38 years, 33 of those in full-time ministry. I have two graduate degrees from a seminary, and I’ve taught preaching courses. What frightens me is that I can rely on my training, my knowledge and my experience when I preach—and completely lack the power and blessing of God.
  1. Preaching puts my life under the microscope. Those who listen to my sermons presume my life will validate my words. I preach the Word publicly on Sunday, but they have a right to see obedience and faithfulness in my life every day of the week. In fact, the very Word I preach gives them the lens through which to view my life. That’s humbling … and a bit disconcerting.
  2. The devil attacks preachers. The gospel is “God’s power for salvation” (Rom. 1:16, HCSB). Thus, it is not surprising that the enemy aims his arrows at preachers to hinder us from preaching and living out the Word. Our very calling to proclaim the gospel puts the enemy’s bullseye on our back.
  3. Somebody probably won’t like something about the message. It’s too long. Or too short. Not enough Bible. Too much Bible. Too much application, or not enough application. You’re too loud. Or too soft. You don’t preach like my favorite preachers on the Internet. For those of us who can wrongly be perfectionistic and people-pleasing at times, preaching is a risky endeavor.
  4. Somebody will listenSomebody who hears will take the message to heart and follow it. I’ve been in places around the world where hearers take the message and proclaim it almost word-for-word that day to their villages. If somebody is going to listen, I need to approach the Word with seriousness and humility.

For all these reasons, preaching scares me a bit. But here’s what scares me the most: that I will someday approach preaching without the earnestness it demands. I’m well aware that a healthy respect for the task today can become only routine tomorrow.

Please pray that God will give me grace to keep that slide from happening. If you are a preacher, share this post—and invite others to pray for you as well.

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on at facebook.com/CLawless.
 
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Publicado por em 30/04/2015 em POIMENIA

 

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The Hardest Part of Ministry: Saying No – David Hansen

Saying “no” can help focus your ministry, your leadership and your preaching.

I am an ordained pastor, serving a rural congregation. I lead worship and preach most Sundays. I sit at hospital beds. I conduct weddings and funerals and baptisms. I talk with people who are struggling with their faith. I lead meetings and help the community discover its vision. I celebrate with people, I rejoice with people.

When people talk to me about what I do, they often focus on those aspects that deal with death. Most Americans don’t spend a lot of time around death—our culture has largely sanitized the experience of death. Because of this unfamiliarity, most people assume that dealing with death is the hardest thing about being a pastor. It’s not.

The hardest part of being a pastor is saying no.

Not just saying no when asked by someone to do some task, but saying no to yourself and limiting the amount of work that you do. The work of ministry is not a finite task. At the end of the day when I go home, I can’t point to some finished product and say, “That’s what I did today.” There is always more to be done in ministry.

There is always more to be done. No matter how much you have done in a given day or week or month:

1. You can always spend more time visiting with people who are sick and homebound.

2. You can always spend more time talking with people who are grieving or hurting.

3. You can always spend more time at community events.

4. You can always spend more time reading, studying and praying.

5. You can always put yourself in charge of one more project or program.

6. You can always spend more time crafting and sharpening your preaching and worship leadership skills.

Short of the return of our Lord Jesus, there will always be more for those in ministry to do—some task will always be left unfinished when you stop working for the day.

There is a great satisfaction that comes with knowing that tasks have been finished, knowing that everything is complete. And for most people, it is uncomfortable to know that things are unfinished. But that is precisely the nature of ministry—unfinished.

But while the tasks of ministry aren’t finite, those of us in ministry most certainly are!

There comes a point when we have to stop. At some point, even if we could spend more time visiting, or reading, or teaching, or planning, we have to go home and be done for the day. We come to the point where we have to say, to ourselves or to others, “No, I can’t do that.”

As pastors, we do this work because we think it is important. We are passionate about the Gospel, and we care about the people whom we serve. And this makes it hard to say “No.” This passion for our work is precisely what makes it hard to say that there is not time for another program or project or meeting.

Unfortunately for many in ministry, the first thing to go is self-care: being rested, spending time with family, caring for our own souls. Next to go is often the work behind the scenes: the hard work of keeping oneself prepared for ministry—reading, attending learning events, all the things pastors and others in ministry do to make us better preachers, counselors, leaders and pastors.

And this is how burnout happens.

In ministry it often feels like the solution is to work more. The voice in our head says that if only I could work for a couple more hours, then the ministry of the congregation I serve would be more effective. But the opposite is true. An overworked pastor — one who does not set limits — becomes more and more ineffective at the work to which we are called.

This is the reality of living in this in-between time; when the work of the kingdom has begun but the kingdom has not yet come. No matter how much we do, the work of the kingdom will remain unfinished – and there is only one who can finish it.

If you are a ministry professional, learn this lesson well: Say no. Set limits. Learn to live in that place where there is more that could be done, and some tasks are unfinished.

And if you have a pastor or other minister whom you care about, encourage them to say no—encourage them to care for themselves, to set limits and to continue to make time to study and learn.

David Hansen

David Hansen

David Hansen is a Lutheran pastor serving in Texas. He helps pastors and churches to use new technology to bring the Good News to the world, and can be found on twitter @rev_david.

SOURCE: SERMON CENTRAL

 
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Publicado por em 12/11/2013 em POIMENIA

 

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Are You Preaching with a Plastic Voice? [truth speaking through personality]

Society is filled with plastic voices.
Preaching requires someone to embody the Word of God.

Dr. Paul Brand was a medical doctor who once served in the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India. On one occasion he was visited by Abbé Pierre, portrayed in the video above, a French monk who had started a work among the beggars in Paris after World War II. The college had a custom of allowing visitors to speak for a few minutes to the medical students during lunch — but only for a few minutes. The students, like students everywhere, were not known for their attentiveness or kindness to visitors.

Abbé Pierre spoke in French through an interpreter. As he did so, he began to speak so rapidly and earnestly that the translators could not keep up with him and gave up. Yet, the passion of the man continued to captivate his listeners. In the end, they gave him a tremendous ovation, although they did not understand most of his message.

Dr. Brand asked a student, “How did you understand? No one here speaks French.” The answer he received was, “We did not need a language. We felt the presence of God and the presence of love” (from Paul Brand and Philip Yancey,Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, pages 54-55).

What is incarnational preaching? It is preaching out of the encounter with God that we live out in our lives.

Bishop William A. Quayle once said that preaching is not the art of making a sermon … it is the art of making a preacher. Phillips Brooks taught that preaching is truth speaking through personality.

Haddon W. Robinson, in defining expository preaching, mentions its incarnational aspects:

Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his hearers.

From Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages

A sermon is a Word that lives in our hearts. It speaks through our whole personality. It is a Word event in our lives, an oral encounter. The Old Testament prophets used the word na’um, “oracle” or “burden,” to describe the messages they received from God, messages that weighed heavily on their hearts (cf. Numbers 23:7, Psalm 36:1, Isaiah 13:1, Jeremiah 23:33-38, Ezekiel 12:10).

The rationalism of the modern era made many of our sermons seem so emotionless and detached from life. We dispensed truth as if we were dishing out food, instead of being prophets and sages. Postmodern preaching ought to be heart-felt. We want to speak out of our personal encounters with the living God.

I have a friend, from the African American tradition, whom I greatly respect. He serves in a small inner-city Baptist church founded by his father. The work is discouraging and difficult and the church barely survives. He and his wife have to work other jobs.

One day, I invited my friend to preach in my church, not because of his fame or connections, but because of his suffering. I knew he could say things I never could have.

Toward the end of his sermon, as he slipped into the rhythmic call and response exhortation of the African American sermon, when the main point is driven home, I could sense him touching lives. His whole personality and his heart-felt emotion spoke to a whole class of people who never responded to me before. It was his life lived before God that was speaking.

Postmodern society is filled with plastic voices. These are the advertisements of our age that call out to people for attention, like painted ladies from corners. The danger we face is to become just another plastic voice. It happens when our message is not backed by our authenticity and our private suffering for God. We become just counterfeit bills floating around the neighborhood stores, until someone finally spots us.

When we allow truth to speak through ourwhole personality, it means that our greatest moments may come when we least expect them, when our genuineness and immediacy are just there, at a time when people need them, in a way we can never plan. Those times may not be smooth and elegant. There might be raw moments, when spirits fight for dominance. We won’t be able to control ourselves then. Every gesture, every eye glance, every nuance will reveal our authenticity, or lack thereof.

If preaching is truth speaking through personality, we will expect our preaching to reflect our full personality. The development of narrative and inductive sermons in recent decades has been a needed step. We are rediscovering emotion and story and song and drama and metaphor as we seek to teach the faith. The postmodern sermon is sensitive to the significance of non-logical arguments.

Jeremiah smashed clay vessels as he preached. Elijah lay down for months beside a little mud city he built. For three years Isaiah preached stark naked! In the New Testament, Jesus preached parables. From tales about sheep and weeds he drew illogical conclusions about the kingdom of God. Who cares if his reasoning style would be thrown out of a logic classroom—it worked! And when signs and wonders accompanied the early preaching, people responded—not because the power of an argument convinced them, but because the power of God had.

Manuscripts And Incarnational Preaching

Preaching has to be more than reading a manuscript. It is a Voice, nestled in our hearts, that we feel comes from God and that we know we must communicate as we live before God. Paper alone is insufficient to hold a Word like that. Only the human heart can.

The greatest hindrance to whole-personality preaching may be our own preparation.

We should prepare for the preaching moment, but we deceive ourselves if we think we can, through preparation, capture the moment in advance. Preparation does, indeed, heighten our readiness for the preaching event, but preaching is a real-time event. That’s what makes it so unpredictable. When we preach, we engage in live theater of the highest drama, with the fate of the lonely, the lost and the listless at stake.

I have spent hundreds of Sundays straining myself in front of a crowd as I tried to pry words off paper—words I carefully glued there in my Thursday study.

Then, one Sunday I decided to go into the pulpit without weight of manuscript or note. I felt like the prophet Isaiah without a stitch! “It’s just you and me, now, Lord,” I quickly prayed as I left my office for that worship service. Preaching for me was about to become a real-time event.

When I preach without manuscript or with little, I sometimes pause longer than normal. While speaking, sometimes I have no idea why I change course in mid-stream, but then I learn why in the end. Sometimes I’m not as literary-sounding as I would like, but then again, my voice never broke with emotion before. I never found myself speaking words that got the better of me. Once I just talked about God. Now, once in a while, I find God speaking through me.

David Teague

Dr. David Teague is a theologian, pastor and missionary. He has taught in seminaries in Egypt and now is an adjunct for Gordon-Conwell Seminary, USA.

Source: SERMON CENTRAL

 
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Publicado por em 02/05/2012 em POIMENIA

 

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Why Preaching Grace Feels Dangerous

How many gospel preachers really preach the radical message of God’s grace, and how many feel the need to qualify it?

Here’s a quote to start the week.  It’s a quote I found very encouraging last night.  Yesterday morning I preached the first message in a series on Galatians.  Paul pulled no punches and I reflected that somewhat in my message.  So this morning I’ve woken up pondering this quote from Andy Stanley:

“The church, or I should say, church people, must quit adding the word ‘but’ to the end of our sentences about grace. Grace plus is no longer grace. Grace minus is no longer grace. We are afraid people will abuse grace if presented in its purest form. We need not fear that; we should assume that. Religious people crucified grace personified. Of course grace will be abused. But grace is a powerful dynamic. Grace wins out in the end. It is not our responsibility to qualify it. It is our responsibility to proclaim it and model it.”

I wonder what proportion of gospel preachers really preach the radical message of God’s grace, and how many feel the need to qualify it and augment it and protect it?  How do we over-qualify grace?

1. We preach grace, but insist on human commitment and responsibility in our gospel preaching.  It’s so easy to preach of God’s wonderful, amazing, life-transforming, gaze-transfixing, heart-captivating grace.  And then in the same breath speak of our need to make a personal commitment, to be diligent, to conform to standards, etc.  Either God’s grace is as good as we say it is, or it is lacking and needs human supply.

2. We preach grace, but quickly shift to focusing on our legal obligations as humans.  Grace plus works is not grace.  Grace minus relational freedom and delight is not grace.  Grace with a good dose of law is not more, but less.  People might abuse grace?  Indeed, so let’s put more effort into communicating how good God’s grace is, rather than feeling obliged to supply qualifiers that are somehow meant to stop people gratuitously sinning in light of the message of the gospel.  When a heart is truly gripped by God’s grace, then it is truly free to live a life of love for God and others—will such preaching lead to licentiousness and abuse?   Certainly not as much as preaching law will lead to rebellion and the fruit of the flesh.

All that I say here applies to both evangelistic and to edificatory preaching.  If the text speaks of our response in some way, or offers guidance on the difference this gospel will make, then of course we must preach the text.  But let’s not automatically feel the need to over qualify and potentially lose the impact of the message if the inspired author didn’t add qualification.

Preaching grace is dangerous.  It is dangerous because unlike overqualified human-centered preaching, it might actually stir a heart to be captivated by the abundant grace of God and lead to radical transformation!

 

Source: SERMON CENTRAL

 
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Publicado por em 13/03/2012 em POIMENIA

 

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