Inside the preacher’s head (2) Life change? Every time?


changeI was chatting to a younger minister, a few years out of seminary, but still getting the hang of things.

He was also getting tired, and especially tired in the area of preaching. I don’t mean he was becoming bored or disillusioned.  It’s just that he’d been hanging around a bunch of people (myself included) who’d spent a lot of talking up the importance of preaching, and its uses.
In other words, we were encouraging each other to have high expectations of the way preaching can and should change our lives as we make much of Jesus.
And my young friend was finding it hard.  Couldn’t he, he hinted, lower his sights a little? Just explain the Bible?
No. Explaining the Bible is never ‘just’ explaining the Bible.  That would be giving a lecture, some interesting facts, with a map and some bullet points.
But opening the Bible and properly explaining the Bible means showing its implications and consequences, and showing those with all our intellectual force and spiritual passion.
That takes time – and also energy.  It’s tiring, as my friend discovered.  And I see why he wanted to take it down a notch.
But here’s the thing
It’s said that one Spurgeon’s students, a Mr. Medhurst, asked for Spurgeon’s advice, after Medhurst had been preaching for months without seeing any converts.

“Why,” said Spurgeon, “you don’t expect conversions every time you open your mouth, do you?”
“Of course not,” was the answer.
“Then that is just the reason you haven’t had them,” he replied.

True of evangelism.  But true of our discipleship in preaching too.  Every passage in the scriptures is designed to lead us to increasing repentance and faith in Christ..  And our task is to draw that out, and lead people there. Every time. Always. Not just giving some information.
“Why, you don’t expect life-change every time you open your mouth, do you?”
“Of course not,”
“Then that is just the reason you haven’t seen it.”

5 comments on “Inside the preacher’s head (2) Life change? Every time?”

  1. Let me start by saying I absolutely agree. However, I wonder if what your friend found was that he had been taught this by people who didn’t have much experience in a ministry like his.

    It’s often people who have been in big(-ish) churches with staff teams, or who now teach on courses without church responsibilities who are at the front teaching on courses and conferences, who have perhaps not enough idea of what it’s like trying to prepare 2 sermons, a kid’s talk and assembly and the Bible study each week, with not much help and maybe not much support in the church to keep doing it (perhaps they’d rather see you do all the other stuff of visiting, admin, evangelism etc.). And that is where most/many of us are at.

    It is good to have our sights raised (although it can be dispiriting when they are raised to a level far beyond physical possibility). It would also be good to have some really thoughtful teaching about how to work it out in ‘normal’ ministries.

    1. Good dose of realism, Stephen – I hope I didn’t fall into that trap. And my (very short) experience of life here in a larger church is that the number of opportunities to speak doesn’t go down because of the size of the staff. Resources are different, but so are the concomitant risks. But all the way through (and I was the sole pastor of a church of -100 members for many years), it’s been 10-12 hours prepping the main sermon, with other bible studies and talks on the side.

      I think the key for me was to isolate the main area of prep and keep a guard round that, and be willing to busk slightly more at other point.s And after a while there’s a reservoir you build up that you can tap into.

      But the main point is not so much time as purpose: my friend was becoming discouraged by the seeming lack of impact of God’s Word, and wondering if he should shoot lower. That’s a theological point rather than a time management one, I think.

      1. Sorry, I didn’t mean you fell into the trap. I know larger church is hard in different ways. I certainly feel your friend’s discouragement at times and your reminder is also healthy so thank you.

  2. Chris,
    I understand his point. For over 13 months I’ve been teaching and preaching God’s Word, knowing that by The Holy Spirit it challenges and changes lives. But when you put your heart in it and the folks you preach to are either disinterested or actively wonder why you preach or dislike what you preach. After a while you are disillusioned. In my case not with God’s Word. But with why bother here. Why not move on somewhere else? Especially when you are faced with a local church leadership who bring in to question whether you are fit to be their vicar and should be an evangelist. I see visitors coming and enjoy and thank God for what they heard. But when the whole church, in my case churches, don’t get it. They reject God’s word being proclaimed.

    1. Richard – I’m sorry to hear that. It IS discouraging, and tiring, when that happens week after week. But we can’t let go of the central purpose of preaching, which is presuming the power of God’s Word, wielded his Spirit, to change lives. If nothing else (small comfort) it changes us as we prepare and preach, and that might be God’s plan. BUT God creates the hunger that he also meets, so perhaps we need to pray on those lines too. Not easy work, but important.

Leave a Reply to Chris Green Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s