The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Delivering Tough Sermons: Help for Stressing Preachers

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AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

If you say certain things from the pulpit, it’s pretty much guaranteed that people are going to get huffy. When people get huffy, they get hostile, and sometimes that hostility is expressed in rather aggressive forms which you then become the unhappy target of. It is a fear of getting sniped at that causes good preachers to pretend to forget where their loyalties ought to lie in the critical moment. Instead of saying what God is commanding them to say, they do a major revision to His message and end up putting out a lot of useless, ego pleasing guff. When it’s over, no one knows the hack job they did on God’s message. No one’s angry, either, and the preachers think they’ve made a smart move by dodging a bullet. Well, the humans might be smiling, but the Creator of all things is more than a little irked. Can we really call it a victory when a man has just moved himself onto the wrong side of God’s patience?

The first critical step in locating your courage to give the controversial message that God is telling you to give is to give serious thought as to what kind of beings you want backing you up in life. Do you want created, powerless, human specks who can’t even breathe without Divine assistance or do you want to ally yourself with God Almighty? Jesus wasn’t playing games when He told His followers to view the wrath of God as far more terrifying than the wrath of humans. God’s wrath is not something you want to be toying with, and nothing provokes God to anger faster than one of His chosen leaders flat out refusing to do what God is telling him to do.

If you’re the real deal and not some self-exalting idiot, then you didn’t call yourself into the role of preacher. God called you, and His calling was unmistakable. When God calls someone to preach, He doesn’t make mistakes, and He doesn’t leave His guys strung out without the resources they need to carry out His orders. The fact that God has downloaded this volatile message into your brain is a clear indicator that He knows you have the chops to get up there and get it done. You might be shaking like a leaf and sweating buckets the whole time, you might do a lot of stammering, and you might not be able to sleep the night before. But you have your marching orders, so you need to get in gear. Don’t even think about editing God.

It tends to be the truly devoted that God entrusts with the really unpopular messages, because they’re the only ones with enough commitment to actually obey. But the more devoted to God you are, the more protective He is over His relationship with you, and that means He’s not going to put up with you trying to revert to rebel mode at the final hour. God comes down hardest and fastest on the guys who care the most. It’s about protecting something precious. All of this means that if you try to play “I can’t hear You” games with God when you both know better, you can bet He’s going to retaliate with some very unpleasant discipline. You need to obey. And if the humans don’t like it, the humans can lump it. We’re not in this to please people, we’re following orders from God.

When you find yourself melting into a pool of dread and running through a thousand mental scenarios in which the political heavyweights at your church are chewing you out, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. For starters, you can’t see the future, and you really don’t know how people are going to react. Demons have you running in loops of fear with dramatic worst case scenarios, but demons can’t see the future, either. Now is the time to stop and remember that God is just a little smarter than we are. Why do you think He is choosing to have you deliver this bomb now? Because now is the perfect time for a million different reasons.

God is a multitasker. He has plans to use your words to affect countless lives. Whenever God speaks, the effects ripple out far beyond the immediate audience. Your people will go home and talk to their people. Those people will talk to other people, and on and on it goes while God reaps in a massive harvest of spiritual progress. Do you really want to miss out on all of that because you were too busy cowering in some corner worrying about what some foolish human might think about you?

The opinion of humans is useless. They hate you one minute and love you the next. Humans are precious, fascinating creatures, but when it comes to loyalty, they really tank. Sticking close through the tough times just isn’t the human way. Cutting and running is more like it. It wasn’t a lack of love that sent Jesus’ disciples scurrying away the night He was arrested. They were humans, and for the most part, humans just don’t see the value in taking a bullet for someone else. If you become too risky to associate with, people will ditch you—it’s the way it is. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still love the little darlings, but you have to set reasonable expectations. You also have to realize that letting fickle humans drive you away from God is one of the stupidest things you can do. After you throw God over in order to keep good relations with humans, do you think those relations will last? Of course they won’t, and you’ll have made a mess out of the only relationship you can really count on.

God must be first in your life—so first that you’re willing to have the whole world hate you in order to stay in a good place with Him. This is the only wise course of action when you consider who God is. He is the point of everything. He is the Sustainer of your existence and the only One capable of satisfying your soul. He wove a desperate need for Him into the very fiber of your being. Who are you going to get to sub for Him in your life if you decide to turn away from Him just so you can avoid making a few waves among people who really need to be shaken up?

Let’s get real about the state that the Church is in today. She’s a crippled mess of rebellion. The vast majority of her leaders do nothing but regurgitate the lies that were passed down to them at these useless seminaries we’ve erected to brainwash each other in. We don’t need yet another preacher who is just saying what he thinks the people want to hear. The flock is already getting bilked, badgered and deceived on all sides—they don’t need you joining the ranks of shady, self-promoting liars who pretend to care about their flocks while they keep casting pearls of poison from the pulpit every Sunday. The Church is already drowning in lies. What we need is to hear someone somewhere speaking the truth—the unadulterated truth that is said without apology and in accordance with God’s timing and style.

Being controversial just to do it is utterly carnal. You certainly don’t want to be some rabble rouser who goes against the majority merely for the shock value. This is why it is so important that you don’t write your own sermons. We don’t want to hear from you, because you are just a human, and no human has wisdom on his own. It is God’s words that the flock will benefit from, and it is an incredible honor that He has chosen you to be a channel through which He chooses to speak so frequently.

GROWING THROUGH STRESS

So why does God pin you into these uncomfortable positions? Why does He send you in with a message that He knows will turn people against you? Well, as far as you and Him are concerned, putting you through these nerve-wracking exercises is a fabulous way for God to keep the bond strong.

You have to realize that God doesn’t want some half-baked relationship with you. He’s greedy, and He wants you and Him to have something really deep and awesome. But He doesn’t want to relate to some mindless robot. He wants you to keep choosing to go deeper with Him of your own free will. A critical part of keeping you motivated to stay close to Him is to keep you a safe distance away from the worship of humans. Nothing makes men lose a grip on the right spiritual priorities faster than being turned into an idol. This is why God so often reserves the high profile positions for those who are in need of some serious discipline. This isn’t always the case—now and then we see a serious Christian holding his ground in the midst of a huge sea of fans. But surviving such epic ego stroking requires some very intense and very unpleasant preparation which most souls just aren’t willing to endure. Rather than drag a bunch of souls through that misery, God just keeps most of His guys from ever getting too popular, and nothing keeps the fan base down better than having you expound on unpopular truths from the pulpit.

Because so many truths about God are not pleasing to our egos, it really isn’t hard for God to keep a steady supply of less than popular messages streaming from your mouth. The real truth attracts the truly committed and the truly threatened, while it repels those who are just playing games. Since rebels vastly outnumber the serious committed in this world, if you do it right, you’re going to have a lot of folks in the Church who find you off-putting and offensive. Once you offend the people with political clout, they block you from ascending up the ranks, and there you have it: God is saving you from becoming one of those guys who can’t even walk down the street without someone oozing about how fabulous he is.

You really don’t want to be treated like a god, and people will start worshiping you if you continuously please them. God has designed humans with an intense need to worship someone and all of that restless longing is going to get fixated on you if you spend your life telling pretty lies. The next thing you know, you start thinking that you really are as awesome as everyone says you are, and pretty soon God is so fed up with watching you worship yourself that He stops giving you any invitations to come closer to Him. This is nightmare material, and not at all where you want to end up. Happily, God can be counted on to put up a hearty fight if you ever start trying to drift from Him, which is what you’ll be doing if you try to skip out on this message that He’s told you to give. So you need to give it—just like He’s telling you, without leaving out a single word. No chinsing on the tone, either—if this one is supposed to be delivered with passionate zeal, then that’s what you need to do. Preaching is not just a matter of passing on God’s actual words. He instructs us on tone, emphasis, and timing as well, and obeying God means we do our best to deliver all four elements just the way He wants.

CHERISHING THE CALL

To be called to speak for the God of all things is an incredible honor. You know if you’re the real deal, and if you are, you need to take some time to reflect on how personal it was that God chose you out of the ocean of humanity to serve Him in this way. Then you need to spend some time visualizing Him standing right there in front of you when you get behind that pulpit, and you need to preach to Him and for Him. Obedience is one of God’s favorite love languages. We do what He tells us to do out of a deep love for who He is. As one who has been called to be one of God’s mouthpieces in this world, preaching is one of the ways you express how much He means to you. You and He are the only ones who know what the message is that He’s laid on your heart. When you’re nailing it from the pulpit, He’s beaming with pleasure, and that’s where you need to get your energy from. Dedicated preachers preach for God, not for people. We obey Him because He is everything to us, and we simply won’t insult Him by compromising His message. You know what you need to do. So go and do it.

FURTHER READING:
Preparing a Sermon that Honors God (Guidance for Pastors)
Confronting Your Convictions: When You Don’t Have the Courage to Obey
When Good Shepherds Make Mistakes: Encouragement for Pastors
The Offense of Relevant Preaching: Stop Editing God

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