Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Prayer, Preaching and Preachers

I can be really thick-headed...really. Just ask my wife. On second thought, please don't ask my wife...or my children. Just take it on faith...I can be really thick-headed. Today's blog is going to be a bit different...I'm going to get really transparent about my job. I think it's important for a "lay person" to get into the head and heart of a preacher from time to time...so here goes...

One of the things I've been so slow to really learn is that preaching is a work of God before it is a work of man. I LOVE my job. I LOVE preaching. Don't get me wrong...preaching, like any vocation, has been deeply impacted by the Fall of humanity into sin. The curse on ALL work revealed in Genesis 3:17-18 applies as equally as anywhere to the preacher...

"Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you...by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread..."

What that means is that every vocation will face great difficulties...like weeds constantly growing in a garden or animals that constantly come to eat what is planted, the workplace will be an environment of continual frustration...things will go wrong; things will break; MURPHY will always be present with all of his LAWS at the office!

And it applies to preaching. I get a kick out of folk who think, "What's a preacher do anyway? He only works a few hours on Sunday morning, right?!" Uh...yeah...sure. Yikes, hope that didn't sound too defensive! Oh well, I DID say I was going to be transparent.

Let me make one thing very clear...I'm not writing this for pity...I'm writing this for PRAYER! Every vocation needs to be bathed in prayer...and perhaps no vocation needs to be more bathed in prayer than preaching.

Preaching will fall on deaf ears and hard hearts and no sustained spiritual transformation will occur in listeners' lives unless preaching is a work of God before it is a work of man. And THAT is exactly where I get so thick-headed. Like everything else in my life, I've always "believed" and acted from a world-view or paradigm that says "hard work" is the difference maker in all we attempt in life. Fact is, I LOVE the hard work connected to my vocation.

I've never given birth...obviously...but I've been with my bride during all three of our children's births...ladies, please don't be offended by this, but the best illustration I can give to help you understand what sermon preparation is like every week is giving birth. Before I knew anything about giving birth, I thought the child actually being finally delivered was the pain of childbirth. It didn't take long to realize how wrong I was...it is the LABOR PAINS OF childbirth that are so painful. Sermon prep is the LABOR of preaching...delivery on Sunday morning is really a piece of cake.

But here's the deal: the delivery will give birth to the wind unless God is in the House! God must LIVE and BREATHE in the message, in the messenger, and in those who receive the message.

I could be the greatest student in the world; I could find the most riveting illustrations available; I could make the Word of God come alive in relevance to your daily life; I could preach with passion and energy and conviction...but if God's Spirit does not come upon me with an anointing that only He can supernaturally grant...and if God's Spirit does not fall upon the listeners with a similar supernatural anointing...people might be impressed; they might be emotionally moved; they might leave with a desire to work on some behavioral change...but they will not be brought into life-changing contact with the Living God.

So...pray for your preacher. Pray every day for the anointing of God's Spirit to fall on him. Pray every day for your own heart to be prepared for the Word of God proclaimed in the church. Pray every day for the Spirit of God to fall upon the congregation. It's the only way life transformation will occur. The Christian life is supernatural...

And by the way...all this is more relevant to your own vocation, whether home-maker or "butcher or baker or candle-stick maker," than you realize. The Fall has affected every vocation...weeds, thorns, thistles grow wherever we work, whatever we do. So pray for the work of the Spirit to be upon your vocation, your daily work as well.

One more thing...and this is key...and this is controversial (not to me, but to others)--none of this is very relevant if you are not attending a church where the preacher actually believes the Bible is the very word of God! If you are going to a church where the preacher thinks the Bible is just a human book, is filled with error, and he only uses it to tell stories that lead to some moralistic platitude at the end...leave that church...it's a waste of your time.

I try to be a gracious man...but a preacher who doesn't believe the Bible is God's word is the greatest oxymoron of human existence.

So remember...pray for your preacher!

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