Returning to preaching the Gospel and nothing but the Gospel, Part II

Emilie Bouvier, "Fertile Soil." (Split Rock Lighthouse State Park; Two Harbors, MN)Image © Luther Seminary Fine Arts Collection, St. Paul, Minn.

I am not trying to infer from the questions asked last week that pastors should ignore what is happening around them and ignore them in their preaching, especially if they relate to the text for the day. The biblical text, without any doubt, has to be contextualized and applied to our lives in order for it to have the desired result.

It is for this reason that I always end sermons with the question, “and so what?” By asking this question, I hope to say, “What does this sermon mean to you? Why did you have to listen to me for more than twenty minutes today?  How could this logo or rhema word affect your life? What is the Lord saying to you? What epiphany did you receive from the proclamation of the Word that could change your view about God, yourself, and His church?” 

Honestly, these questions cannot be adequately answered by a congregant in attendance on a Sunday morning if I do not preach the Word of God and nothing but the Word of God. Many times when I think I am done writing or working out my sermon, I soon realize when I ask myself the “and so what” question, the sermon I prepared is heavily influenced by my biases, personal opinion, contemporary issues, popular culture, and things I have heard from and about others. Sometimes sadly, I have to admit to myself, albeit to my dislike, that this is not really God’s Word but mine. I have prepared a sermon on everything else but the Word of God. It goes without saying then that when I realize it, I immediately start writing the sermon all over. .

Please do not think this is an indictment. If it is, I am the first to be indicted by my own writing because I am guilty of doing exactly what I am writing about. The most logical question to ask regarding this is, why are preachers tempted to preach everything else but the gospel message?

I believe that there are a number of reasons why. Here are a few:

1. We are too busy trying to handle the hundred and one additional tasks associated with being a pastor.
2. We are simply lazy and do not want to take the time in the presence of God to hear from Him and declare to His people with fear or favor, “Thus says the Lord.”
3. We do not have the required education to fully do an exegetical work on a text from which we would like to preach.
4. We are too discouraged with the folks to whom we preach the Word to the point where we really do not care anymore what we say because we feel that they will not hear what is being preached anyway. Therefore, why bother?
5. We have become tired of preaching and no longer see ourselves as God’s spokesperson or ambassador on this earth. Preaching has become a job that allows us to put food on the table for our family.
6. We are afraid that if we speak the truth, we might get kicked out of our parish.
7. The enemy, Satan, knowing how powerful the unadulterated Word is when preached, does everything he can to hinder us from declaring the full council of God to His people.

We are in a difficult position as preachers because some of us have lost the essence and power associated with the pulpit ministry. People come to church with the intent to listen to God’s Word and receive new insight for their journey with the Lord. Unfortunately, they hear everything else but the Word. Disappointed and dissatisfied, some leave wondering if they had made the right decision to come in the first place. Others decide to come back with the hope that they will hear “a word” from the Lord the next time.

Oh, that the preacher would understand the power associated with preaching the Word of God! Oh that we would understand heaven stands in attention when we proclaim the Word! Oh that we would understand humanity is waiting for the unadulterated Word to be preached in order for people to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus!  I say this with great sadness in my heart and with a deep yearning within me that God will rescue us as preachers and take us back to the true meaning of our calling. 

If you are asking yourself, why should I preach the gospel? What does it mean to preach the gospel and nothing but the gospel? What impact would this have on my ministry and the people to whom I minister God’s word?

I would encourage you to read part III of this article next week.