Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21 NIV)
Dear Cambridge Family & Friends,
If I’m just being honest with you, I’d admit that I once loved it when people complimented me on my preaching. “Son,” an older church member once said to me, “now that was some fine preaching.” Or a visitor once remarked, “I have to tell you. I felt like you were speaking directly to me.” Affirmations like these and others stroked my ego and encouraged me to work even harder to make sure that my opening anecdote or joke grabbed my audience’s attention, my application of the Scripture relevant and timely and, of course, I would crescendo at just the right point in the sermon (hopefully before the clock struck 11:30 and folks started looking at their watches) concluding with the kerygmatic content (a highfalutin way to say that the message should end at the foot of the Cross).
Of course, occasionally things would backfire and I would have someone accuse me of intentionally throwing a little ‘shot across the bow’ i.e. directly constructing my remarks to call out an action (or inaction), attitude and/or abdication of responsibilities. Now, for the record, I promise I have never intentionally delivered a sermon with a specific person or group in mind (Now I may have written, thought of, and / or preached one to myself…and God, but left those notes at home). One of the first things seminary students are taught in their Homiletics (another highfalutin word, for preaching) class is to never write a sermon directed or put together to convict, criticize or call out a specific listener or listeners. We are taught to let the Spirit lead and if someone feels convicted, criticized, and/or called out, well, that conviction should be a direct link between listener and Holy Spirit.
What I’ve come to realize is I’m not that good of a preacher. Now don’t get me wrong, I still work just as hard reading, researching and writing my sermons. One of my homiletics professors suggested that for every minute one preaches, an hour of time in preparation should be applied. (I sure hope that includes time in prayer.) As I’ve matured, I’ve felt more unburdened by the need to impress, entertain and/or convict the listener. I know that if I’m obedient in my intent and preparation that it will not be my words that move people into action, but the encouraging, admonishing and/or convicting guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.
Recently, I’ve felt called to proclaim messages that parallel the mission, vision, and passion of our church. First and foremost every act should begin in prayer, occasionally to be accompanied by fasting (Prayer Emphasis). Second, we are most effective for the Kingdom when we are serving and walking together in unity (Congregation Emphasis). Third, Jesus has called us specifically to go beyond our church walls and comfort zone to be the hands, feet and mouth (i.e. voice) of Jesus Christ to a community in great physical, emotional, and spiritual need (Community Emphasis). And finally, there should never be a barrier to our prayer life, unity, and Christian service because of race, color, creed, or national origin (Racial Reconciliation & Cultural Inclusion Emphasis).
It’s important for you to know how inadequate my ability is to call you into action. Whether you’re listening to or reading my words, my prayer is that you hear and see them once they’ve passed through the prism of the Holy Spirit. The conviction you feel and/or need to feel is God’s specific call on your life – not what to do ‘if’ the Spirit calls you, but when the Spirit calls, and I can assure you, that call is now.
In Christ alone,