As a young pastor (turning forty in less than six months) there are some days I am busting with joy that God has blessed me with the coolest calling anyone could ever receive from God in being a pastor to a church. There are other days I wonder if I’m even coming close to making a difference for the kingdom.
What are people looking for in a church? What are they needing? Are folks simply wanting someone to entertain them and make them feel all mushy inside or are they wanting simple truths that can challenge them to look at the gospel in a way that motivates them to think outside of their box of naiveté?
I had a conversation with a relative during the holiday season that left me wondering about the way I preach the gospel. This relative basically said in so many words, “What’s the matter with folks wanting to hear a feel good message?” Of course we talked about pastors and churches that are doing the “feel good stuff” and who are growing by the thousands. Pastors who are polished presenters of a “make you feel good gospel message.” Another relative sitting in on the same conversation says, “when I was a kid, my parents took me to some baptist church and all I remember was hearing a you’re going to hell sermon. What’s matter with the “feel good stuff?”
I came across another person a couple of weeks ago from another church in the area that implied that my role as preacher is to entertain from the pulpit. This person had implied that people want to hear politics and the gospel message somehow intertwined together. I had shared that my call to preach good news was simply to preach good news. Preaching good news meant that there couldn’t be room for the politics of today to interfere with the proclamation of the gospel message. The pulpit wasn’t a place for dancing on the heads of the parishioner with my take on the world.
I don’t have a problem using an illustration or two from the world to make a point. People get the “fluff and stuff” from the outside 24-7. When they enter the doors of the church they need to hear something more than just “fluff and stuff.” In the same respect I had a preaching professor say to us soon to be preachers while in seminary, “You ain’t preaching the gospel if you ain’t making people feel uncomfortable.” Implying that Jesus came with a message that called people to face the troubles of the world and that called people to turn away from sin which made people feel uncomfortable. How do I do this and yet still bring some kind of hope to those looking for just a small bit of hope when they enter the church on a Sunday morning?
One of my hopes for 2008 is that I’d continue to find “my preaching,” voice. A phrase I heard often thrown around seminary like snowballs. I want to be the kind of pastor and preacher that speaks the truth of the gospel. I also want to be the kind of pastor and preacher that helps others become more than just pew participants warming up some old pews. I want to be a pastor where when the words I put on paper somehow become the words that speak to a persons heart via the mouth of God. Words that move people from the pew out into the world.