Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A PIVOTAL POINT IN MY PREACHING

(This will be my last post this week. I'm leaving town for a few days to recoup from workshop-mania!)

When one has been around a single congregation as long as I have, there are so many enormous discoveries over time. I am like the prospector who really strikes gold. I keep finding huge chunks of "value learning". Such discoveries are part of what keeps me young, hungry, and ambitious for kingdom life.

Memorial Drive became a different church when I quit preaching brotherhood issues and began to preach about Jesus. For my first few years the church was in a bothered tizzy. It was always agitated about something. Upon every annual anniversary of moving here, I evaluate my work and pretend I just moved to town to replace myself. I would ask myself, What if Walling or Harris or Atchley were to move to Memorial? What would they do to improve the place? And then I would set out to measure what I needed to do to improve my work.

One year I discovered this major discrepancy in my preaching. The reason the church was grouchy was because it had an irritant in the pulpit....me. I kept fanning the flames of frustration. When I transitioned to preaching about Jesus some of the grouches didn't get happier but they discovered I would not fuel their need to argue. Jesus calls us to focus upon the Father's business; not the shallow waters of bickering.

I heard one of my elders comment on a guest speaker as to how kind and gentle the man was. The elder was not addressing me through the back door, but I picked up that this guest was kind and I wasn't. At first I wanted to deny it. But in replacing myself, I realized I didn't possess a gentle heart. I was reared in harshness, then converted to harshness in the church, and was instructed in harshness in preaching school. At first glance, for a man in the pulpit to be kind and gentle was cowardice "as we all need to take a strong stance".

Over time, I could see the wisdom in this elder's passing comment and the sheer lack within myself. Memorial's pulpit is no longer perceived by me as a bunker from which I toss grenades. It is a place where family gathers and hears the scandalous and courageous love of Jesus. Just as He desired, I try to gather Memorial under my wings as a hen does her chicks. The fun part of this story is.....they cheerfully gather.

All preachers and elders might take a good look at the joy factor in their congregations. I believe it will reflect the identical joy factor of the leadership. We at Memorial believe Jesus when he said he came that we might have life and have it abundantly. The carrot in front of us is His abundant life.....we want it!

9 comments:

Chris said...

Great post.

I've recently discovered your blog and have spent quite a bit of time reading your words. I have grown to appreciate your spirit and desire to preach/teach Jesus crucified. Keep up the good work.

I appreciate the comment regarding the pulpit being a bunker from which we toss grenades. Although I am a graduate from one of our more conservative preaching schools, I have never felt that such should be the case and it saddens me to see the attitude that many take into the pulpits.

Thanks for your words.

Doug Oakes said...

Terry,

Thanks for sharing your journey with us through your postings. It's encouraging to hear your positive speech and to see the fire that burns within you after so many years. You provide a great testimony to ever-present and active nature of the Spirit in our lives. In pursuit of Christ, we are always growing, always challenged, always being made aware of how deep His blessings go. Thanks!

David U said...

Terry, your decision to preach Christ instead of issues has blessed MANY MANY people, including the one writing this comment.

Love you bro!
DU

Darin said...

Your willingness to share your story is a powerful one.

Thanks.

Liz Moore said...

I did not know you in those early years, but God was obviously working through you to do great things, because you are one of the most kind and compassionate people I know! You bless my life as well as others continually. May God continue to bless you as you serve Him and show Him to the world through the life that you live.

I hope you had a great get-a-way! You deserve it! Love you!

Jim said...

Terry,
This is a great post. In particular, I appreciate your willingness to look at your self (message, tone, attitude, in preaching).

Far too often, those of us to preach don't do this kind of reflection. Instead, we seem to always point to the church as the problem.

Thanks for a great reminder.

Greg said...

I had a similar epiphany in my preaching and the joy factor here skyrocketed! Thanks for your honesty and openness, Terry.

Matt said...

Thank you for sharing this. We young folks appreciate it!

cwinwc said...

Powerful observation Terry. The church does pick up on the minister's mood through the subjects he preaches, the tone in his voice, and even his body language. We have a great preacher who besides being one of his elders I consider myself his friend. Every now and then (and it hasn't occurred for some time) I’ll ask him, “Brother, who are you mad at today?”

Enjoy your post-workshop break. If you’re ever in the land of “Disney and (East Central Florida) Rockets” look us up.