I was thinking the other day about what advice I would share with a young preacher who was just starting out. Three things came to mind. Each of which I wish someone had shared with me when I first started out. While I don’t know the extent of the change it would have made for me I know the right advice would have gone a long way.
My first piece of advice would be this. When it comes to what a God called man is to preach, God has already told you what to preach. He has given you 66 books in one volume called the Bible. Stay on your knees in prayer with your nose in the good book. You don’t have to look for the eight-run home run sermon, just give ’em Jesus.
The second piece of advice would be in regards to opportunity. That is, take advantage of every opportunity. Don’t hide behind the line that you are not good enough yet to go out somewhere, that you need more seasoning. If God called you and you have been faithful to study and not just have opinions and traditions then God will be with you. A young preacher may not feel up to the challenge of an invitation, but I would urge them to take it. The opportunity they pass on may be the same one someone like me would be begging to have.
Lastly, and just as importantly as the first two. Please young preacher ask questions. Don’t just assume that the older more experienced preachers will just open up the flood gates of knowledge to you of their own accord. They tend to not remember how it was to be that inexperienced. There is knowledge and wisdom there but you most likely will have to tap into it yourself verses them taking you under their wing.
I am reminded of what Paul wrote over in 2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Paul just listed four generations in this one verse. How much Paul brought out on his own verses how muxh Timothy had to dig out of the apostle on his own I don’t know, doesn’t matter anyway. The point is that there was knowledge there and each preacher has the responsibility to get all that he can and pass on all that he can.
The other night I decided to attend our church’s teen meeting. Yeah, I know I haven’t been a teenager in over twenty years. On top of that I am something of an introvert so I am not big on socializing by nature. For me, I felt like I really needed to step out of my norm, my shell, that I needed a change if for nothing else to be a little different for a couple of hours.
All in all I had fun at the meeting. We started off by playing a couple of games. One was a guessing game where each of us wrote down three positive facts about ourselves on a card with no name on it and we were then divided up boys against girls. Our object was to guess who on the opposing aide had written about themself. For the second game we all had to choose an animal and a motion and sound that would describe the animal. While in a circle we would have to do our animal and follow it with someone elses animal. We did this until we messed up the animal or picked someone who was already out.
These games served a couple of purposes. The most obvious was to entertain everyone. The leaders didn’t go straight into the Bible and teach the Bible in the typical dry style that has doomed so many young people to think that church is boring and let me get out of here as quick as possible. These kids are teenagers, as such you have to approach them accordingly. This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 he was willing to go to the level of his audience in an effort to win as many to Christ as possible. Those leaders for our teens are doing the same thing and have seen some results.
Now the other thing that those games did which is in my estimation even more important is that those games desensitized the participants. When we first started I felt so out of place. Like I said I am twenty-plus years older then the oldest, this wasn’t my age bracket and I am sure most if not all realized that tidbit. I felt ignored because I wasn’t one of them, so awkward in fact I wanted to leave but at this point it was too late. Yet once we got through the first game, a simple game at that, we were all laughing and talking to those on our side and the second game opened us up to laughing and talking with the whole group. No longer were we divided by age and gender, for one evening that norm had been left behind, we were now all equal to one another.
After a quick meal it was time to get into the Bible. Our youth pastor had warned me if I ever showed up I better come prepared to bring the devotional, so I did just in case. As it turned out right after the meal he did indeed tell me I had two minutes to get ready. I brought the devotional on some of the details about the book of Ruth and tried to tie it in with both our pastor’s current series on the life of King David and the first of those same games where we had had to guess who had wrote what details about their life. Not a normal devotional perhaps but I could see their faces when I told them different things. Their guard was down after the opening of the evening and they were more willing to hear about God’s word. For a few minutes I was their equal and I think they enjoyed it, I know I did.
Philippians 2:12b “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Not to work it into our lives, Ephesians 2:9, but to work it out by our lives, by our obedience, by our daily behavior, or to show what is on the inside. The Christian life is a working concern. We should have an eagerness to show it off like a child would do with a new toy. In other words displaying fruit, Galatians 5:22,23. Just like one would a gold mine operating, exploiting, and getting top value for what is securely your possession.
In 1 Kings 18 we see the prophet Elijah going to deliver a sermon. In v20 the people have been gathered together and in v21 Elijah gives the introduction to his sermon, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, then follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.” Elijah was looking for a response from the people. A sermon should be given with the idea of getting a response. Now maybe by the time the sermon is over nobody comes to the altar but we should keep in mind that people may be praying in their seats. That the sermon will continue to resonate with someone long after the last amen has been said. Cold hearts however don’t like to respond and here that was the case because no one gave any sort of answer.
The body of his sermon consisted of his challenge to the false prophets, what was to be provided, the expected production, his mocking of the paralysis of Baal, their pleadings ignored, and the path of true worship.
His conclussion came when the fire fell and consumed the sacrifice, the soaked wood, the stones, and the stored water in the trench. He called upon the people once again to make up their minds. What he didn’t do was just say, the fire has fallen and that’s all I got! No, he wanted them to respond so he provoked them to respond. The people had already declared twice that the LORD is God but that wasn’t enough. Actions speak louder than words. That is why an altar call is given, to allow people to step out and make the decision real. Elijah didn’t stop with them confessing the LORD is God he wanted them to prove it by removing the sin literally from their lives. The only way to do that was to follow God’s judgment and kill the false prophets and they did just that.
Are we preaching for a response or just to hear ourselves talk?
So the other day my boss calls me and says I won the lottery. My first thought is I am in trouble and my second was that I don’t play. After assuring me I wasn’t in trouble he informed me that I am next up to get one of the new delivery trucks we are getting. In all honesty given how small my route is, especially of late (hello pitiful paychecks) I figured I would be one of the last drivers to get a new truck.
Turns out since I make an effort to keep mine clean unlike some of my co-workers the boss is rewarding me with getting a new truck sooner than them.
It comes with more responsibilities. Obviously cleanliness inside and out. I have to fuel the truck since these are gasoline instead of my old diesel which we have a service that comes and fuels those. Still a brand new truck does sound nice.
It reminded me of one of the parables Jesus gave, about a master who went into a far country and left his servants in charge of some money. While he was gone he expected them to use that money on his behalf to make even more money for him. When he returned each servant was given the chance to account for what had happened to his sum. Those who gained, even a little, he called them good and faithful servants and rewarded them for their faithfulness (Luke 19:17).
Will Jesus find us faithful to Him some day? Will He be able to reward us for following His instructions?
Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
If I were to ask you to name someone who has been used by God in your life to change it for the better could you? Would there be more than one person? Hopefully the answer to both questions would be yes.
Off hand I can name three who have had a solid impact on my life. Men who have been used by God to help me along. To be sure there have been others but for the sake of time I would like to write about just these three.
The first was a lost man. His name is Z. He hated his first name and his last name began with Z so he asked everyone to call him that. I was backslidden at the time I worked with him I had been called to preach even but had walked away from God. Conversations with him were akin to assault and battery, the whole time he would be talking he’d slap your back or punch your arm. But he was a free spirit with what he had to share in conversation. Straight as an arrow then crack a joke then back to sincere with the smoothest of transitions. When he got excited everyone in the building knew about it.
All I could think of listening to this guy was how I wished that back when I preached that I could have gotten that fired up. I am an introvert so usually reserved in my speech (in fact my writing is slow and deliberate). One day while listening to Z I got to thinking about how excited I could get at the ballgame so what would be the difference? When I finally did get back into church and started preaching again I remembered that thought and prayed some about it. I got the best news in the world here, the Gospel, I very well should get excited about delivering it!
The second man is a former pastor of mine Bill Hayes. When I had first been called to preach he had been there at the revival that night and told me once I got my spiritual feet under me he would have me come preach for him and he did. When I first got back into church we were attending the church he pastors at and after a few months he came up to me one Sunday and asked me to preach the following Sunday. I told him I didn’t know if God would let me preach again, I had been backslidden for 10 years and I wasn’t a good boy during that time. He quoted Romans 11:29 “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” With that verse and his request I had received the answer to a prayer that I had been praying for quite a while. Such encouragement is greatly needed in this world. People mess up but God can still use everyone if we will let Him.
The third is my current pastor Clemon Chappell Jr. He has shared knowledge with me, suggested books to me to read, even bought me some books, and of course introduced me to how to do word studies in the Bible. Glean as much information as I can. I have taken this example and tried my best to incorporate it into mine own life and way toward others.
In the Bible we are also shown a man who had three key men in his life, John Mark. He had Barnabas to encourage him when others said to let him go (Acts 15:38,39). Peter came along at some point and took him under his wing and instructed him (1 Peter 5:13). Peter was also most likely Mark’s (John Mark) source material for the gospel that bears his name. Lastly when the chips were down and Paul was about to leave this world he requested Timothy go get John Mark and bring him to Paul because John Mark was profitable to him for the ministry (2 Timothy 4:11). Not bad considering there was a time when Paul refused to ever be associated with John Mark again, Acts 15: 38,39.
I am sure there were others in his life but at the moment these 3 stand out.
Ephesians 6:18 “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints”.
Judges 9:54 “Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword…”
1 Samuel 14:7 “And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.”
1 Samuel 17:7c “…and one bearing a shield went before him.”
The armourbearer or armor bearer had a vital role back then. He carried equipment, helped the soldier keep his skills sharp, and fought along side the soldier. When it came time for a good contest he went before the soldier carrying shield to announce the soldiers arrival.
Here in Ephesians Paul has just completed his list of battle gear that every Christian should have on and with him. But would you note that verse 17 ends with a colon. The sentence and thus the list is not yet complete. Yet we tend to leave it right there because we have something of an understanding of warfare. What we don’t get is that Paul wasn’t done and he had a better grasp of it, having been chained to Roman soldiers for so long, then we do.
Prayer is our armor bearer, church.
Prayer is what helps us get dressed for battle.
Prayer is what helps us to learn how to put it all together.
Prayer is what helps us to better understand what we read in the Bible, learn from our Sunday School lessons, and take in what the preacher is preaching.
Prayer is how we communicate with headquarters.
Prayer is what allows us to function together as a unit.
Prayer is what helps build those spiritual muscles.
Praying less is one of the biggest mistakes we can make. We are not sending prayers out before us so we have less support. Little praying means the armor hangs loose on us if at all. No time for prayer means our skills get rusty. A prayer life that is absent is a Christian begging for defeat.
You may say I don’t know how to pray! Easy, ask God to teach you about prayer and how to do it. If you feel foolish about that, good! That means pride is being beat up on and God doesn’t like pride, in fact He resists the proud (James 4:6). Not sure what to pray about, no problem. Pray about everything, no matter how small. God loves details.
Do this and watch yourself do some spiritual growing. Avoid prayer, and shrivel up like a spiritual raisin.