Jump Start # 2153
2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.”
These past few Jump Starts have been looking at common complaints that I hear all too often all across the country. First, we addressed, “I don’t like my church.” Then, “I don’t like the singing.” There remains one more, “I don’t like the preaching.” These feelings are often expressed by those who are discouraged. Sometimes no one listens to what they say and often little is done to make things better. But, one must understand, while some are saying “I don’t like my church,” there are others at the same time who are saying, “I love this church.” Some cry, “I don’t like the singing,” and others, “I love the singing.” The same is true about the preaching. Why the opposite feelings? It may have to do with backgrounds, experiences, what one has been through, where one is at the present. This always presents issues for the leadership. There are some who are wanting to change worship, the songs, the number of times worship is offered, and there are some who are very happy to leave things the way they are.
Some live their faith through the church. Outside of worship, they don’t have much on their own. So, if things are going well down at the church house, they are on top of the mountain. But if things seem stale, dull and lifeless, so is their faith. That’s a problem. Our faith must stand independent of what happens down at the church house. I cannot let the actions of others dictate the well-being of my faith. So the singing stinks, sing at home. So I don’t get much out of the Bible classes, do your own study, which you ought to be doing anyway. Do not let the atmosphere of the church worship determine the temperature of your faith.
Having said that, let’s now consider, “I don’t like the preaching.” This is one I’m sensitive to because I preach. Preaching comes in all kinds of styles. Some are loud. Some use a lot of illustrations. Some use humor. Some stick with the text and dive in very deeply. Some are very practical. Some are short. Some are long. Some seem more like an informational lecture. Some make you squirm in your seat. Some are easy to listen to. Some, you have to work at it to stay with him. Some take you on a journey and it takes a while before you figure out what this is all about. Others flow like an outline, point to point, all clear, logical and easy to see. Some use fill-in-the-blank note cards. Others don’t. Some use powerpoint. Others don’t. Now, with all these various ways of preaching, every person has their own definition of a good sermon. Everyone has their own favorite preacher.
When someone says, “I don’t like the preaching,” there may be volumes of reasons. Can I learn from this preacher, even though he may not be my favorite? Is he true to the book? Is he helpful in getting me to see things? Am I growing?
Some preachers are hard to listen to. Some preachers ought to and could lower the nets deeper into knowledge. Some are so generic that they could use a spoonful of practicality once in a while. Some need to be plugged in to get a bit more passionate. But, there are tons of preachers who are doing amazing work. They are pouring long hours and every ounce of their heart and souls into what they are doing. They love you and they want you to know the Lord, to walk closer to Him. Their very lives are given to make the best sermons that they can. They take their work seriously. They don’t turn to short cuts. They write sermons with you in mind. They want you to excel spiritually. So many of these preachers, young and old, could make a lot more money if they were in the secular work place. They are doing what they do because they love the Lord. They work day and night. On vacation, they are thinking of sermons. They are reading constantly. They are taking notes all the time. They are studying with individuals. They are working on classes to teach. You see them on Sunday, with the finished product. They make their work seem so easy. But to follow them throughout the week, to walk in their shoes is amazing. How do they fit all that they do in a day, a week? Where do they get all the ideas that they have? How is it that they can take something so complicated and make it seem so easy to understand? They continue to work on being better at what they do.
There is an old country song that goes, “Mama, don’t let your babies grow to be cowboys.” In college, several of us would change the words of songs to fit preachers. That was one. “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be preachers,” is how it came out. “Love on the rocks,” became “Church on the rocks.” Preaching isn’t for everyone. Giving a lesson a couple of times a year isn’t the same as preaching. I nailed a couple of boards together recently. Does that make me a carpenter? No.
Now, some of this falls upon the lap of the listener. We must try. Coming to services tired just about guarantees not much is going to stay with a person. Sometimes that happens, especially if you have small children at home. But a lot of this is because we are staying up way too late on Saturday night, giving little thought to being of heart, mind and presence for the Lord the next day. Some are a bit too touchy. The wrong word said, and immediately the sermon is shut down in our minds and we get upset. Most times, the preacher has no clue what you went through this past week. He makes some parting reference to something and you assume that he is talking about you. You get mad. You don’t listen anymore. You miss a lesson that could help you.
Maybe your preacher is hard to listen to. Stay with him. Take notes. Suggest a topic that you’d like to hear a lesson on. Instead of fighting him, work with him. Be careful about making comparisons to other preachers. Also, be careful about making corrections. We often judge the value of a sermon by the performance, rather than the content. A good public speaker does not necessarily make a good preacher. The value of a sermon is in it’s truthfulness, and ability to help us. In our modern techo world, there are zillions of sermons one can listen to on line. Do that. Find you a variety of preachers that you like. Listen. Learn. Grow.
Don’t try to change your preacher into Joel Osteen or Rick Warren. Cotton candy preachers of the religious community are cute, clever and not very accurate with the word of God. They bend the rules, abuse Scripture and are more interested in filling an arena than they are in teaching the word of God. Ours are not like that. They are not cut from the same cloth. Ours are in step with the Master. They model themselves after the preaching of the apostles.
When I was a young puppy preacher, I had a guy criticize me at the door in front of a bunch of people. He loudly said, “You had all week and that’s the best you could do?” I melted. He sure knew where to hit a guy. He wouldn’t stop. Finally, I said, “Tell you what, you take next week’s sermon and I’ll learn from you. But don’t forget, you have to teach the Sunday class, also, you’ll need to preach the PM sermon. Don’t forget you’ll have to write and print the bulletin for next week. And, there’s the Wednesday class that you have to take care of first. Now, there’ll be several phone calls, emails and other things that you need to get to as well.” The man said, “Well, I’ll need more time than a week to do all that.” That’s when I said, “That’s all I have. One week, and it all starts all over again.” He hung his head, apologized and realized that he had spoken like a fool. I was a nervous wreck.
I don’t like the preaching. That’s a concern. Do you like any preaching? Is it that your toes have been stepped on? Could you try harder? Could you look at things through the perspective of your preacher? Is it that he’s teaching doctrine and you are not a fan of doctrine? You need to be if you are going to stand with God. You need preaching. You need to hear the word of God. Get to know your preacher. You’ll find he’s a friend you can count on. Spend some time with your preacher. You’ll see that he takes his work very seriously and he’s always trying to be the best that he can be.
Now, before you ask, I am not going to put this series into a booklet. I can just see it now, send me the “I don’t like Jump Start book.” No, that’s not going to happen. I don’t like my church. I don’t like the singing. I don’t like the preaching. I don’t like, I don’t like, I don’t like. Maybe we ought to start with asking, “What do you like?” Count your blessings. What’s working well with you spiritually? Maybe that can help us just a bit.
God certainly likes preaching. From Moses, through the prophets, apostles, and even Jesus, they were preachers. It was God’s design not to send videos, but the preached word to save a dying world. Keep that in mind before you declare, “I don’t like the preaching.”