The most frightening thing about preaching

It’s actually several facets of the same thing:  I’m speaking for God.

Imagine such a thing.

The God of the universe.  The Creator. Lord of every planet, every galaxy, every star.  And He makes me His spokesperson.

The Lord of eternity.  God of Heaven and earth.  And He calls me to be His personal representative.  Oh my.

From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.  He is in charge.  He holds us all in His hands.  He owns it all.  “If I were hungry, I would not ask you,” He says in Psalm 50.

And He calls a few of us to the assignment of opening His word and declaring His message, of speaking to people individually on HIs behalf, of being a priest, a spokesperson, a teacher, a preacher, an evangelist.  Oh my.

Whatever was He thinking???

I didn’t volunteer for this. I was drafted.  In my case, twenty-one years old and a college senior preparing to be a history professor, and I’m standing in the choir in Birmingham singing “Jesus Paid It All” while people are being saved during the Tuesday night service of a two week revival.  The pastor, Bill Burkett, was preaching that night.  Jim Carraway, billed as “the singing engineer” from Shreveport, was the singer.  I recall it as clearly as though it happened last night: The living God invaded my thoughts and said, I want you in the ministry.  That’s all.  Just, “I want you in the ministry.”

The call was not “to preach,” as many of my friends say theirs was.  To me, “in the ministry” ended up meaning a lot more than preaching.  I’ve been pastor of six churches, a staff member of two churches, the director of missions for 130 churches of metro New Orleans for five years, an evangelist, a writer, cartoonist, counselor, and a teacher/encourager of preachers.  And a few other things, seen only by the Father–and, if I’m any judge, important to Him.  And that is so encouraging.  And in all of these things, I was obeying the call.  As Paul said, “I was not disobedient to the Heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19).

That call came in April of 1961.  At this point, that was over 63 years ago, and I’m still at it.

You are looking at one blessed dude.

When the pastor does his work well…

Lives hang in the balance.

People are making decisions about God based on something I say.

People are making choices about their eternal destiny based on something I say.

Is this frightening or what?

What if I get it wrong?

What if I misrepresent God?

What if I leave out an important aspect, something that changes everything?

What if people draw nigh unto me and love me and think that’s the same as loving God?

What if I stupidly think because they love me that all is well with their soul and so ease up once I find they like me?

What if I manipulate those who trust in me into doing things for me, instead of for God?

What if I forget my place, that I’m only a messenger, and begin to believe this is all about me?

God help me.

Does this mean people will honor me? Answer: some will.  And some will accuse you of taking too much on yourself and will attack you.

Some of those attacking you, pastor, will be church members.  Why they are there when they are not obedient to the Father is anyone’s guess.  Some go to church out of a sense of duty, some to please the wife, some because it’s a tradition, and some to create havoc.  Really.

God help all pastors.  Not all, we begrudgingly admit, are called of God or are spiritually mature or know their Bibles. Not all, we sadly confess, love the Lord nor His people nor His gospel.

You can’t say you weren’t warned.  The Lord Jesus said, “You see how they treated me; you may expect similar treatment.”

What did they do to Jesus?  They crucified Him, and thought they were doing God’s work.

They were so screwed up it wasn’t funny.  And some of their successors will sit before you on Sunday, pastor, when you open God’s Word to declare His message.

Buckle your seat belt, preacher. There’s turbulence ahead….

Writing to a young pastor, the Apostle Paul said it as plainly as can be said. Join with me in suffering for the Gospel according to the power of God (2 Timothy 1:8).  Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3).

Yep.  That’s what you may expect.

Or, if you’d prefer, here is how the Lord Jesus put it:  I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their (houses of worship), and you will even be brought before governors and kings for my sake as a testimony to them and to the unsaved. (Matthew 10:16ff)

You cannot say you were not warned. Whether you read this or chose to believe it is another matter.  (I’ve known more than one pastor who grew bitter and disillusioned over their treatment by some church people.  As though somehow God had misrepresented things in their call.  Not so.  They just failed to read the instructions.)

Bottom line: Pray for your pastor.  

Better yet, pray for all pastors.

When the pastor does his work well, people live forever in the sunshine of God’s love and in the joy of His presence.  When he does it poorly, everyone suffers.

Your pastor knows something not every believer realizes: He is not adequate for the assignment God has called him to and for which your church has employed him. Scripture says, “We are not adequate for these things; but our adequacy is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

Unless he stays close to the Lord and the Heavenly Father safeguards him, instructs him from the Word, and guides him in the ministry of that word, his work will be carnal and fatally flawed.

I have observed more than a few ministers offering “fatally flawed” service to the Lord, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Pray for the Lord to protect the pastor, give him wisdom and discernment, strengthen him to say ‘no’ to lesser things and ‘yes’ to righteousness, and to empower him in the study and in the pulpit.

After praying, do one thing more, a real biggie.  Leave the answer to your prayer with the Father. This is to say, do not look at what the pastor is doing to decide to what extent God is hearing and answering your requests.  Ask the Father, then leave it with Him.

Pray for the pastor, then trust the Lord.

Thousands will thank you in eternity.  I promise.

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