Last night I woke up with that awful feeling that follows a bad dream. As I lay in bed I tried to remember the content of the dream that bothered me so much. Here's what I remember:
I was asked to preach at Synod for the 2010 meeting of Synod (this has not happened by the way, but I would gladly accept an invitation in case there is anyone on the business of synod committee reading). As I approached the front of the room a desk was pushed to where the pulpit should be and a chair was placed on top of it so that I could stand on the chair. A very tall music stand would serve as the lectern.
I stood on the chair, and since I am a rather large man, the chair was a bit wobbly, and it took a lot of energy to properly stand in the make-shift pulpit. As I opened my notes to begin preaching, I noticed that they were not my sermon notes, but a compilation of magazine articles pasted onto printer paper and poorly copied textual notes in diverse colors, sizes, and fonts. It was so poorly printed that I could not make out what they even said.
Between the wobbly make-shift pulpit, the poor notes, and the overwhelming nervousness that abounded, I could not preach. I just stood there wobbling and flipping through these poorly prepared sermon notes. I was able to sputter out some word salad, but nothing of any value.
One by one the presbyters started to leave the Synod floor. Nothing that I said made any sense and the men obviously had better things to do. The numbers slowly dwindled and the last face that I saw was Pastor Ian Wise smile a heart-felt smile, and then he too walked away. (Ian is one of the kindest godly men that I know.)
I was asked to step out of the pulpit and then a nice young lady stood in my place and began preaching very powerfully to those on the Synod floor. Applause irrupted as her powerful sermon touched the hearts of the hearers. I was humbled and shocked for a number of reasons, as you can imagine.
Why such a bad dream you might ask? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that I read this article right before bed:
Brothers, those of us who preach, must be moved by the sermon before we even enter into a pulpit. Our lives must be living testimonies of the grace of God working in our hearts. If our sermons are merely pious thoughts on things and stuff we will never have the blessing of the Spirit to move our people to greater holiness. We will never preach as one who has been transformed by grace. We must preach with passion and heart. We must preach with conviction and with power from on high!
The state of the Christian pulpit is in need of reform from the Word of God. And it is not just the words coming from the pulpit that are in need of reformation, brothers, our hearts are in need of reformation.
Our Presbyterian forefathers were asked the question, "How is the Word of God to be preached by those that are called to preach?" They answered in a way that needs to be seared into every heart that preaches the Word of God, and carved into the desk of every pulpit in this land:
Those who are called to labor in the Ministry of the Word are to preach sound doctrine:
-diligently, in season and out of season
-plainly, not in the enticing words of man's wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power
-faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God
-wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers
-zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of his people
-sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.
Brothers. Preach the Word. Preach as a dying man to dying men. Preach as you have but one sermon left to preach. Preach as though you have first preached to your own soul.
Link to article here: http://www.worldmag.com/articles/16511