How to Fail As a Preacher

Yesterday I preached the first in a series of sermons titled, “Reflections on the Trinity”. The deacons and council of my church had voted to instruct me to bring a series on God’s design for manhood and womanhood. This is because the leadership realized last Spring that there were some very strong feelings in our congregation against male leadership in the church, in the family and in marriage. These strong feelings seem to stem from experiences of the abuse of power by men in a variety of circumstances in the past. A very sensitive matter.

My first sermon, yesterday, was on the Fatherhood of God the Father. I was aware of the controversy in calling the congregation to relate to God as “Father” and to refer to Him with masculine pronouns in prayer and in our teaching. But I wasn’t really nervous… yet. After the service, I had the distinct impression that the words I had preached had disturbed some individuals. My impression might have been mistaken–most of the feedback was very positive. But that impression grew stronger overnight. This morning I felt some fear. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m afraid of upsetting people and so putting my job at risk (again!). Maybe I’m just afraid some people won’t like me?

But then in my reading this morning I came to Matthew 10:28,

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (ESV).

What an odd encouragement! But I am reminded this morning that to preach the Word of the LORD is not to preach what pleases my congregation. If that was my calling then I would never call sinners to repent, I would call sinners to re-interpret the Scripture to fit their preferences. Then, if that was my calling, I would encourage my congregation to buy a copy of William P. Young’s The Shack and begin to change the way they think about God to fit their sensitivities rather than conform the way we think about God to His self-revelation in the Scriptures! Why fear a God who is nothing but nice and loving?

But as Jesus said, “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” God is loving, yes. But He is also holy, just, all-Powerful and fearsome in His wrath. So if I ever decide to deliberately fail as a preacher, I think I’ll conform my sermons to the priorities and pre-conceived notions of my hearers. But as long as I fear my God who has graciously granted me to preach His Gospel by the working of His power (Eph 3:7), I think I’ll keep my fear of what people think in check. Thank you Father for the courage to preach through my fears!