The longer I go…in preaching

I’ve been in a lead preaching role for over 7 years now.  And the longer I have gone in that role, the more certain convictions and beliefs have risen to the top of my heart.  Here are five of them.

The longer I go, the more I love and trust the Word.

Maybe this seems like the standard one to include.  Like, ‘Duh, you’re a pastor; you should love and trust the Word.’  I loved and trusted the Word 7 years ago, but over the course of the years, my love and trust has only increased.  One of my prayers has been that my love for the Word might reflect the love that Psalm 119 speaks of.  Because at the end of the day, I’m not seeking to communicate Dave’s thoughts, but ultimately the Word of God.  And that Word is everything.  It is living, active, and penetrating to the soul (Hebrews 4:12).

Isaiah 55:10-11 says this, ‘As the rain and the snow come down from the heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth, it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’

This verse speaks to my trust in the Word.  My role is to communicate, and the Lord promises that when the Word goes out, it won’t be for nothing.  It will water, and nourish, and feed, and accomplish what God intends.  I’ve seen the evidence of that in lives, and I’m grateful for that truth.

The longer I go, the more I want to be changed by the Word before I preach.

Every pastor faces the temptation to separate their study and preaching of the Word from allowing that truth to change their own heart first.  It is easy to compartmentalize our lives.  But I don’t want that for my life.  I know that is a temptation the longer a pastor preaches, and so my heart is that I might be the one who first wrestles with and applies the truth first to my own heart.  And then from that place of being under the Word, I might then communicate.  If I am not first changed by the Word, then I have missed how the Lord wants to work in my own heart as a teacher.

Again, I go back to Psalm 119, and I see the writer continually praying for the Word to change him.  The Word wasn’t a compartment of his life, but it was his life.  And where there was a disconnect, he longed to see the Lord bring about transformation.  Some people miss that a pastor is also in the middle of their own growth in Christ, but the reality is that while we’re in a place of leadership that doesn’t make us exempt from spiritual growth.  I seek to preach authentically about how the Word has and is transforming me.  Considering we are saved by the grace of God and not by our works, I’m ok with confessing sin and my shortcomings from a platform in hopes that it might encourage others to do the same.  I’ll go first, so that the listener might be encouraged to go second.

The longer I go, the more I see that the Gospel is of first importance.

Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian church, “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed onto you as of first important; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.”  (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

If you’ve been around Crosspoint for any length of time, my hope is that you’ve heard me share the Gospel every Sunday.  In our post-modern culture, let alone in rural Midwest, we can’t assume that people know what the true Gospel is.  People might assume that the Gospel is about works, or about church attendance, or about a prayer you pray.  But this Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16), and it is a Gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).  And Paul says it is of first importance.  The Good News is not just about salvation and only shared for people to receive and believe, but it is the Good News that believers continually need in our lives until we are with Jesus face to face.  I need that news proclaimed to my heart as much now, as I did in 1993 when I got saved.

The longer I go, the more I am ok with the way that God knit me together. 

In our world of technology, we have access to church services and teaching from around the world.  I listen to a handful of pastors around the US, and it is feeding for my soul.  But over the course of the 7 years, it has also been easy to slide into a mentality that says, ‘I wish I was more like that guy.’  I wish I was as knowledgeable, as charismatic, as insightful, or as skilled as that guy.  But here’s the reality I’ve come to, I’m not them.  And I’m ok with that.  And I’m grateful to serve in a church that is ok with that.

The Lord has called me to this role, and I’m trusting His calling.  I’m trusting that the Lord can use an unschooled, ordinary man, just as He did in Acts 4 (verse 13).  I love to watch pastors who can open their Bible, read a passage, have a few notes, and then go for it (and it actually makes sense, is powerful, and the plane lands where it needs to land).  But that’s not me.  I’m a guy who writes a manuscript and labors over word choice and the flow of the message long before Sunday.  Neither way is wrong, and the longer I am go, the more I rest in how the Lord gifted and called me.  That’s not an excuse to not grow and get better as a communicator, but it is a conviction that allows me to rest in His calling in my life.

And finally,

The longer I go, the more I want to make it all about Jesus. 

Again, maybe this seems obvious, but I don’t think so.  I know many pastors who seem to be much more about making a name for themselves, rather than exalting the name of Jesus.  John the Baptist said this in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  That has always been a powerful and challenging prayer for me and my heart.  John knew his role was not to be the Messiah, but point to the Messiah.  He knew he was unworthy and unable to fulfill that role, but he knew the One who was worthy and more than able.

A preaching role is a platform role, but my desire is that while on that platform, I might lead my own heart, and our church to make it all about Jesus.  Not about us, but about Him.  That He might increase all the more, as we live lives of loving Him, loving one another, and reaching others with the love and hope of Jesus.