On a good day, preaching is a battle. People come to church with a myriad of distractions and worries. The pastor is expected to be witty, engaging, capture and hold people’s attention, give them something to think about, encourage them to hang in there, give them a sense of hope in the midst of despair, heal their wounds, and do it all in 25 minutes or less so that they can get home in time for kickoff.
On a bad day, preaching is trench warfare, hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. The pastor throws down the gauntlet by challenging misconceptions, stepping on toes, calling for repentance, pointing out where people have strayed from the truth, and trying to recapture ground lost to the enemy.
On a good day, preaching is hard work. On a bad day, preaching is exhausting.
While I wouldn’t call yesterday a bad day, I did come home fully aware that I had been in a battle. I am preaching a series on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Yesterday we considered 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” I asked three questions, What are you hungry for? How hungry are you? and, How can you increase your appetite?
In response to the first question, I explained that in Matthew 5-7, righteousness refers to ethical or moral righteousness. It is a desire to see less sin, and more holiness in our daily lives. In response to the second question, I explained that we should have an intense, continual hunger and thirst for God. In regard to the third question, I suggested some practical ways that we can increase our appetite for spiritual things. (See previous entry, “What’s on the menu?”) The main idea of my message was that those who long for holiness will be rewarded with God’s presence. I wanted people to know that God will answer every prayer where a person wants a deeper relationship with God.
I had been praying that God would use the message as one more building block to help bring revival the congregation. While I knew it was going to be an uphill challenge, I did not know how steep the incline was going to be.
During the first service, the sound system continually acted up . There was feedback and scratchy noises. As I brought people to a point of commitment at the end, someone’s cell phone went off and kept ringing. During the second service, my laptop and the projector were not communicating and my PowerPoint slides could not be shown. As I was preaching, I noticed a few people whose eye lids were at half-mast, and others whose were completely shut. As my wife reminded me later, this was a message that the enemy did not want heard. He was working hard to distract people from hearing and responding.
As hindsight has once again pointed out, preaching is a battle for the minds and hearts of men and women. We must bathe every step of the process with prayer–in the study, in the pulpit, and on the drive home. We need to ask God to use His Word to accomplish His purpose!
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NIV)