Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Preach The Word

A few weeks ago I posted an article by John Piper entitled Tethered Preaching, and just yesterday as I was getting caught up with some of the blogs that I read I came across this article by Dan Phillips over at Pyromaniacs where he basically said the same thing.

This article is very poignant and it needs to be read, not just by everyone who preaches or teaches the Bible, but by every Christian who ever comes into contact with non-Christians. Every time that we fail to share the Gospel we have wasted an opportunity that may never come again; there are people all around us who are dying and going to hell, and we are continually - myself included - missing the opportunities that God has placed right in front of us.

As you read this article by Dan Phillips I hope that you are as convicted as I was.

Carpe Diem, Preacherdude

I can't tell you how many times I've sat in an assembly and thought this, in the past 35+ years since my conversion: Dude, this critical moment, with these assembled people, on this your one shot — and you do that with it?

Let me unpack.

To me, as a preacher, one of the most stirring, throat-grabbing-and-shaking passages in the Bible is the one that starts this way:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom... (2 Timothy 4:1)
What? You charge me what? I'm sitting up, wide-awake, alert, holding my breath. With an attention-getter like that, what is the apostle going to say? Next verse:

There it is. That is our defining task. That is what we must do.

There may be pastoral activities that are nice, and even complementary — but this is not one of them. This is a must. This is definitional. This is non-negotiable. Fail at this, and you fail at pastoral ministry.

So. This guy gets up in the pulpit, right? He's got all these people, these immortal souls, literally one heartbeat away from an irreversible eternity, and he... does what?

This is the critical moment. These people have re-arranged their calendars. They've altered their schedules. They've said "No" to every activity but this. They're just sitting there. Most or all of them are quiet. You've got a minute to grab their attention, and fix it on something. What do you do?

Maybe there are 5 people, maybe there are 500 or 5000. Maybe you've got 5 minutes, maybe you've got 50. Doesn't matter. What do you do?

This may be the only time they've been in a church, about to hear someone who claims to believe the Word, the Gospel. Maybe they're there because a friend or relative has prayed for them for months, for years, for decades. Finally, they're in a (professedly) Christian church, intending to listen to whatever a (professedly) Christian preacher is about to say. It is literally a critical moment, a moment of crisis, of judgment. Angels attend! The Triune God is there! Endless ages will reverberate with the impact of what happens next. These people are accountable, you are accountable. All eyes are on you.

What do you do? What do you do with that priceless, pivotal, unbearably freighted opportunity?

I can tell you what some do.

This one guy — he tells jokes. Now, anyone who's heard me preach knows I've no problem with humor in the service of a Biblical message. The Bible does it, Spurgeon did it, I do it.

But that isn't the aim here. That isn't the purpose. No, these are jokes with the sole purpose of making the joker look cute and clever and witty. "Oh, please — like me," these jokes wail. "Love me. Think I'm cool!" The audience chuckles, and has a good time. Some of them go off to Hell chuckling. Others become a reproach to their professed Lord as they do what sheep characteristically do, without a shepherd.

Then there's this other guy, who gets up and chats. He shares, he randomly free-associates. Word flow, unfiltered, from imagination to mouth. He poses questions to which he offers no answer. Then he shrugs and wanders on. People leave with never a "Thus says the Lord" to challenge their thinking and point them to Christ.

Yet a third fellow tells stories, as if Garrison Keillor were his model for preaching rather than Isaiah or Paul, Wesley, Whitfield, Spurgeon, or Ryle. They are stories of which the only point is the story itself, or the cleverness of the storyteller. They serve the end of entertaining the audience, or provoking its admiration, or filling time inoffensively. They'll go off to Hell, or to shame Christ, with a nice story in their ears.

Still another gent weaves a blurry tapestry of vague, gauzy religious sentiments that could equally have been preached by a Unitarian, a pantheist, a New Ager, a Mormon, a Christian Scientist, a Roman Catholic, or a secular motivational speaker. Nobody's offended. Nobody. People like him, they think he's clever. Well, good. Because that was his goal: to be liked. Mission Accomplished. He has his reward. They like him... until eternity dawns, and they see how miserably he failed them. But for now, nobody's offended or upset.

Well, not everybody is not offended or upset. If I'm sitting there, you can lay good money I'm offended. (It isn't gambling when it's a sure thing.)

You can bet I'm sitting there fuming, and internally shouting these words: "You had that pulpit, these people, this opportunity — and you did that with it? What, in the name of all that's holy, were you thinking? You may never see these people again! Nobody may ever see them again! That may have been your one opportunity — and you do that with it? Why did you even get up there? Why are you even a pastor?"

Once again: it is a crucial moment. Vast ages of eternity hold their breath.

What do you do with it?

Preacherdude: best to ask yourself that question now, before it is asked of you on that Day.

We've already got a peek at the Teacher's Guide. We know the answer we'd better be able to give. What is it? Say it with me:

Preach the Word.

Now, don't waste the opportunities that God has given you... go share your faith!

You can see the article in it original form (with all of the cool Pyromaniacs graphics) at the Pyromaniacs website
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