I’m not the standard

Recently, I was listening to a sermon that had an evangelistic bent. Only problem was – I really wasn’t feeling it. I’d heard the speaker before and thought he’d done well before, but this time it just wasn’t resonating with me.

Before I go any further, I don’t want this to be “Will’s a sermon connoisseur and has high standards when it comes to them.” Full disclosure, I do listen to a lot of sermons. Not sure I can count them. And while I have unsubscribed from some, the amount of sermons I listen to tends to have an upward trend. I really like good preaching.

But my concern wasn’t for me. It’s not that I was disappointed with the quality and was about to walk about because there wasn’t much for me. There was. The sermon was based on Ephesians, and there’s plenty for me to still learn from that, and plenty for the rest of the people listening.

My concern was that while the gospel was being alluded to, it wasn’t being communicated in a way that made it clear that people need to make a decision. There was no call to action. Almost as if the assumption was that everyone in the room already had a real relationship with Christ.

Now, of course, I hope that was true. I hope everyone in there truly knew Jesus and the utter hopelessness and misery he saved us from. But I’m living proof that assuming people are on the same page is dangerous. My heart goes out to the person who sits in the pew each week but has not truly understood the gospel.

So basically, I was listening to the sermon, but with a critical and judgmental attitude – not because I thought it was a weak message (it wasn’t), but because it was the kind of sermon you nod to. The kind you don’t really disagree with. The kind you think is funny and may laugh at different points. None of these things are bad, but I wanted and was expecting to hear the kind of sermon that keeps you up at night and makes you re-examine your life. As a Christian, I don’t think I can ever get enough of re-examining myself and making sure I know the gospel I purport to believe.

But as I sat there, judgmental of the pastor who’s been engaged in God’s work full-time, as I sat there comparing him to the other preachers I listen to pretty much on a daily basis, God convicted me. I was judging the sermon based on how I would respond. Based on the convictions that were stirred up in me as a result.

But I’m not the standard.

As long as the gospel is preached, God’s Word doesn’t return void. As long as the gospel is preached, souls can be saved regardless of how well it was communicated. As long as the gospel is preached, God can and will draw people to Himself.

Maybe one day I’ll preach. Not because I think I’m a good speaker or because I have something special to share, but because I have a burden for lost people who don’t know they’re lost. I have a burden for lost people who attend church regularly, are involved with fellowship and perhaps ministry, and who seem to have it all together.

But if that day comes and I find myself in front of a crowd preaching the gospel, I’d best not apply my own standard to the effectiveness of my communication. I’d best just make sure I’m sticking to the true gospel and communicating it in a way that will draw the hidden lost out of hiding.

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  1. I love the double message of your post. The first is that the gospel must be center to preaching/teaching. I am not a pastor, but I am a Christian. The gospel must be center to my life. I need to live a life that shows that the gospel is the center, the foundation, what I breathe to give me life. I need to use words when necessary and I have the opportunity, but more than that, is my life built on the gospel every morning of everyday? Do I start there.

    It is crazy that I stumbled on to your blog post this morning. I just read 2 Timothy 4 about 30 minutes ago. It says almost exactly what you said about the gospel needing to be central in verses 1-5:

    “1 I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom: 2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

    3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

    5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.”

    I also like your second message, we need to be careful of our standard for how others teach (or live) the gospel…we could be judged by the same standard. We need to focus on ourselves and how well we are doing.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your heart.

      • wheretigerswill
      • September 30th, 2011

      Thanks for sharing your reaction! It is pretty wild that you found this shortly after reading a closely related Scripture!

      I agree that the gospel needs to be in the center, not only in messages but in our lives. I guess my struggle is comparing with other preachers I listen to, which can be dangerous. At the same time, though, I do think God has put the burden on my heart to do something in this situation. I’ve spoken to a few people about it since, and I need to speak to a few more.

      But it’s also true that we need to avoid using our standards as the filter through which we hear everything. That’s a dangerous road. The standard has always been and always needs to be God’s Word and Holy Spirit.

  2. Amen. I have been in a similar situation lately, where I knew I needed to speak up because a brother in Christ was on a slippery slope of not showing love to others who are weaker in the faith or not Christians at all. It boiled down to how we use Scripture when dealing with someone’s heart and where the line is between showing love and not showing love in doing so. We are doing heart surgery with a broadsword and we need the help of the Holy Spirit to do this. The conversation did not go well, but I am at peace because I knew I was being led to speak up. I will let the Holy Spirit take over with him in this situation now. I have done what I was called to do. I did talk to him in love and out of love, but he could not get past not wanting to step past pride to hear what I was trying to say.

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