Posted in preaching, speaking

They thought I was kidding

As I began preaching yesterday, I mentioned that there are some in the congregation who believe I should more confrontational, more aggressive, more direct in my preaching, along the lines of John the Baptist. JTB didn’t pull any punches calling his audience a “brood of vipers” who didn’t take repentance seriously, basically trees bearing nothing but rotten fruit that should be cut down and burned.

I said that maybe I should zero in on our smug self-righteousness, our neglect of the poor, and our failure to witness. Rather than children of God we look more like the descendants of the serpent himself.

After each of those examples, many in the congregation smiled, snickered and audibly chuckled. As I spoke, I felt personally convicted about each of those offenses, but they didn’t. Either they really didn’t take it seriously, or I didn’t preach the law clearly. And if they didn’t get the law, did they get the gospel? Did they think I was kidding about that, too?

Feedback after a sermon is valuable, but rare. It may come in the form of a comment or question after worship or later in the week. But it might also come in the moment, from a look in their eyes or an expression on their faces. The latter was true yesterday, and it was humbling.

I don’t want to get caught in the trap of believing I’ve got this down, that I know how to effectively reach an audience. As soon as I do, I let down my guard, I don’t work as hard as I should, and I’m nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. You can either humble yourself and work hard, or you can let God humble you so you can get back to work.

Either way, by his grace, there’s another Sunday coming up. Another chance. Thank you!

Posted in Good News Club, Ministry

The room suddenly got very quiet.

(Not our club, just a random pic)

Last Monday afternoon’s Good News Club was, let’s say, “spirited.” Anytime you get within spitting distance of Christmas, there will be a surplus of kid energy filling any size room. It was review week, which brings out the highly competitive side of the group as well.

So we reviewed our bible stories from the last five week: Jesus turning water into wine, meeting with Nicodemus, talking to a woman by a well, healing a nobleman’s child and restoring sight to a blind man. I am always impressed at how much they remember, because sometimes it doesn’t seem like anyone is paying attention at all.

Then, after a few songs, the room suddenly got quiet. I know, I was shocked, too, as well as the rest of our team. Review weeks include a Gospel spotlight, and the room-hushing moment was when I told them that God knows everything about them, including all the bad things. We’ve told them that before. Plenty of times. As a group and individually. Maybe some secular holiday influence helped me out here. I don’t know. All I know is that you could her a pin drop, and that never, ever happens in our club.

“God knows everything about you. He knows everything you’ve ever done.” The look on the their eyes and the silent words on their lips said, “What? Are you kidding?” More than a few adults react the same way.

“Even all the bad things…” When the Law does its work, it is a powerful moment because it sets up the Gospel so perfectly. “But he still loves you.” How do I know? It says right here “God so loved the world…” And there’s that powerful and humbling moment when you get to talk about Jesus.

Your experience may be different, but those moments don’t come around very often for me. The story is more often punctuated by “Hey, zip up” and “Is anybody sitting up?” “No, you can’t have more candy,” and “No, it’s not time to go home yet.” When those moments do happen, I know it’s the Holy Spirit at work. No doubt in my mind. I’ve proven that I can’t make it happen, so I’ll gladly give Him all the credit. And I’ll always be thankful that I can be there to see those moments happen.

Next week I’ll be teaching the Christmas story. I’ll let you know what happens.