Friday, February 28, 2014

How Preaching Has Made Me a Better Person

During the month of February the Jenkins Institute asked preachers to write on this topic. For a full list of their articles you can follow this link:

This is my contribution.

I need to be needed. This is how I am wired. Even at the earliest stages of my life I can recall a desire to matter to somebody. As an 8-year-old attending Tanda Bible Camp in the San Bernadino mountains, I can remember my first attempt to help someone spiritually. There was a boy who came to camp who wanted to go home. He was in my cabin. He had retreated to the boys’ bath house and I found him there crying. He did not have the blessings of a Christian home like I did. I knew he needed to be there. I spent an hour pleading with him to stay. I wanted to make a difference in his life.

Preaching has made me a better person because it has helped me think about others. Not all the time, mind you. In fact, I could argue upon reflection that if it were not for preaching I might not find many unselfish moments. You see, preaching demands that you love God and people and the church more than you love yourself. You will have to take the high road most of the time. You will have to overcome criticism. You will have to overcome attitudes. You will have to overcome apathy. You will have to overcome agendas. You will have to overcome the very worst of the people who have been called to be the best. And every minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ will have to accept the reality that when people need you at the most inconvenient times and circumstances that it is your job to be there and to be happy someone needed you in that moment. Preaching commands humility and servitude.

Preaching has made me a better person because it has required Bible study. As a young preacher, I often taught and spoke in small country churches, in those places where people were just happy to have someone there. They gave me the benefit of the doubt. It was not hard for me to study then, because I was so excited and on fire for God. Someone was actually willing to listen to me, and I felt so unworthy! I was in the realization that this was my time and I was fulfilling it. To preach was a dream come true. But what about when you get older? What about when your preaching honeymoon is over and the people have become accustomed and maybe even bored with your style and approach? All I can say is study, study, study! And I admit, when I was not in my right spiritual heart and mind and not in love with my own personal study, the needs of others to hear a preacher who was prepared helped me and motivated me to be so. I have learned that the level of a person’s Bible knowledge really has nothing to do with how serious I should be about my own. No man should preach unless he is fully willing to give his very best to God and to supply every person with a well-ordered and passionate study of His word.

Preaching has made me a better person because I have never forgotten for even one minute that I must live every word I preach. I have not always excelled at this practice, but knowing I must do so has always helped to rein me in. My grandfather was my preacher for over 11 years of my growing years. Not many will ever know him in the brotherhood. He was not the greatest speaker. He did not write any books. His ministry was public preaching and house to house evangelism and personal home Bible studies with contacts he met on the street. But the greatest work of his preaching life was never being untrue to any word he spoke from the pulpit or taught in a class or a home. He was literally “above reproach.” Preachers need to get over any animosity or negativity about living in a fishbowl. If you are a Christian, you are salt and light and transparency is a part of the game. Embrace it. Use it as an opportunity to be Christ-like. What could be better? Think about it! People are expecting you to be a guide, to inspire, and to exemplify the power of God’s spirit! What an honor. Preaching has made me wake up every day and ask myself, “How can Christ live in me today?” and “How can I make others want what I have?”

Preaching has given back to me exponentially in comparison to what I have put into it. I love my job! I pinch myself daily that I get paid to do something that my heart has caused me to want to do for free or even at my own expense. Preaching has many other blessings for me still yet to be revealed. How exciting!

“For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”  - 1 Corinthians 9:16

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