As you know, church has been kinda’ bugging me lately, and one of the things that has been bugging me is the preaching. It doesn’t really belong in church.
Preaching belongs in the streets.
One of the most powerful sermons ever preached is recorded in Acts 2. Peter brilliantly, powerfully, clearly and anointedly laid it all out in the public square and thousands accepted his message that day and were baptized.
Thousands of people got what he said.
They heard the good news and they got it. They did not need to keep getting it.
Can you imagine how boring it would have been for them if, after they were baptized, Peter just kept reiterating the same message to them again and again?
Jesus’s parting words were, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
The word preaching does not appear in His commission to us. He didn’t tell us to preach to the church, because preaching to the church is like preaching to the choir. It’s unnecessary.
Preaching is implied, however, in the “go make disciples” part. It’s what Peter did out there in the public square. But once those three thousand new believers were baptized into the faith, they no longer needed preaching, they needed teaching.
Preach then baptize then teach.
Teach obedience to the things Jesus taught.
Preaching is like professing. A professor stands behind a lectern and professes what he knows, take it or leave it. But a teacher is hands on. A teacher makes sure his/her students know how to apply the concepts.
In the comment section of a recent post, Reuben Kerr wrote, “The church desperately needs Shepherds but with the ‘over-emphasis’ on teaching today a minister is more likely to be chosen for his leadership qualities or his speaking ministry over his pastoral heart. In the UK the ‘pastoral care’ has been given to the ladies of the church. Men may be getting ‘fed’ but they’re not being cared for. And men really do need men to pastor them! And what happens – men struggling with all kinds of sin, get discouraged, defeated and eventually give up. In the meantime, the LORD is saying – where are my Shepherds? It’s a dire problem that needs urgent attention.”
That over-emphasis on teaching sounds like it might be an over-emphasis on preaching. Because teaching goes hand in hand with good shepherding. It comes alongside. It shows a struggling person how to overcome his/her struggles.
I was attending an inner city church earlier this year. The pastor there is doing an amazing job of caring for the community. His actions are preaching the good news of Christ. And that form of “preaching” in the community is bringing people through the doors of the church on Sunday mornings. And that is great.
Preaching is meant to bring lost sinners into the church, but the job is not done.
Yelling repent Sunday after Sunday while the “choir” shouts their amen does not complete the mission. It does little good to stand at the pulpit and admonish the addicts and the prostitutes to repent unless you show them how. Unless you take them by the hand and walk them to victory.
“Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
And how did Jesus teach? Well, He didn’t stand behind a lectern and yell. He taught by example, by action. He modeled love. He went out to where the hurting people were and He touched them. He healed them. He redirected their thinking. He counseled. He removed scales from eyes. He stooped to wash the feet of those closest to Him. He showed us what His Father is like.
Jesus taught His disciples by taking them along on His mission.
Perhaps Pastors should teach us to obey Jesus by getting us up out of the pews on Sunday mornings and taking us with them to preach in the streets. So we can welcome any resultant new believers into a fellowship of actively caring for one another. While we all go out and rescue some more.
Perhaps church should be nothing more than us out on mission with Jesus – learning together how to care for those He loves. Because actions have always spoken louder than words.
So weigh in. Is your pastor using nitty-gritty, hands-on actions, mere eloquent words or a perfect combination of both to show you what the Father is like?
Is anyone in your church meeting your deepest needs? Does anyone in your church even know what your deepest needs are? Does anyone know your struggles? If so, are you takin’ it to the streets?
I’d love to hear how a truly effective Shepherd shepherds. Reuben probably would, too.
“Take this message to my brother, you will find him everywhere…”