Every week, ministers all over the world are asked to do something that is almost impossible: preach a message to a group of people that includes… teenagers to seniors, men and women, mature disciples and not-yet-believers, the faithful and the skeptical, regular attendees and first time guests, singles, married, divorced, and “it’s complicated,” those who need comfort and those who need a swift kick in the…, well, you get my point.
Ask ministers what their toughest regular assignment is, and speaking a message that ministers to everyone is at or near the top of that list. This is something that ministers are expected to do, and do well, that no one else is ever asked to do. And not just once, but 50-52 weeks a year, and in many cases two or three times a week. All while keeping it fresh and new every time.
And while you’re at it, could you be non-offensive, but challenging, intellectually rigorous, but emotionally stirring, scripturally based, but culturally relevant, spiritual, but practical, timeless, but current, humorous, but reverent, casual, but life-transforming, have plenty of content, but speak to my un-baptized children, oh, and can you keep it under 25 minutes too?
No wonder the burnout rate is so high in ministry. I have been involved in preaching ministry for over ten years now, and while I don’t claim to be the best in the world, by trial and error I have learned a thing or two over the years. It’s still tough, because you want to reach everyone sitting in the seats, but in the end, there are two factors at play. One, those individuals sitting in those seats have to want to be fed. Is it always going to be their favorite thing, is it always going to hit home with them, is it always going to be presented the way that they like it? Of course not. But it’s still up to them to come in, listen to the message, and then apply it to their lives.
But ultimately, the main thing that I have learned over the past ten plus years of ministry is that I can do my part, but in the end, I have to leave the results in God’s hands. On my own, using a story or a joke I can make an entire room laugh, I can bring them to tears, or I can cause them to learn together. What I can’t do is speak in such a way that everyone gets something different from the same message.
Only God’s word can do that. So I do what I can do and I leave the rest in God’s hands. I can’t reach the rebellious teen, the sorrowing widower, the struggling single parent, the alcoholic dad, and the skeptical spiritual seeker all at the same time. But the Holy Spirit working through God’s word can. So, in my ministry, I try to make things as simple as possible, and I try and make my messages as applicable as possible, but then I leave it in the hands of God.
Acts Of God
Acts Of God
Faithful Through Prosperity
In May of 1846, 187 men, women, and children left from Missouri in a wagon train headed to California. There was nothing exceptional about the group or this journey and we would have never known about them had they not made the decision to try a shortcut. The “Hastings Cutoff,” as it was known, was indeed a shorter route to their destination but it had only been tried on horseback. No wagon had ever made the journey. This group, now known as “The Donner Party,” would attempt it, but they would fail.
This group is famous because of allegations of cannibalism that occurred within the group while waiting for rescue. We find the thought nauseating and disgusting. We like to believe that, no matter what, we would never do such a thing. It would be more accurate to say, “I have not been that hungry yet” than to say “I would never eat that.” The survivors were high in the Sierra Madre for three months with no food at all.
I have heard people make the observation that, “I wasn’t fed at church today.” I assume they mean that they didn’t learn anything useful or that they didn’t feel the presence of God through their worship. I also have heard the charge that, “I don’t like doing it this way” or “I don’t like that version of the Bible” or “I don’t like these songs” and even, “I don’t like how the minister uses that tiny computer for his sermons.” I compare this to Allie coming to me complaining that she is hungry. And when I point out the different option to eat, she says, “I don’t like that” or “I don’t want that.” My response is always the same. Then you must not be hungry.
You know who doesn’t like what is spread on God’s table? The one that isn’t hungry. The one seeking self satisfaction and validation. Who wants to pick and choose the ways they will worship? That one that if they aren’t the center of attention, they aren’t happy. The one that doesn’t think they need God. They are full…, full of themselves that is.
In Matthew 5:6, Jesus commends the one that “hungers and thirsts” for righteousness. Think Donner Party hungry. Desperate. Without pride or will. With one goal and one goal only, to be fed. To eat readily from whatever it is that God lays on the table. To accept whatever condition, correction, or assignment He throws at us without hesitation. When we come to church and worship that way, and take in the sermon that way, according to Jesus, we will leave filled and content. So the next time you leave still hungry and discontent, ask yourself, “Whose fault is it really?”