Whose praise do you need?

My thoughts go towards preachers on Saturday nights and Sundays for understandable reasons. I hope when I speak to preachers I don’t sound like a boring know-it-all…but I will take that risk. I would never dare to write a book about preaching but I have been preaching since 1979,so I guess if there is nothing to pass on for people to take or leave from the experience of those years, it would be a poor do! So, here goes…

The main theme of this blog: please, preacher, don’t make too much of people’s reactions of praise or anger. Of course if you give these things no thought your are probably a psychopath rather than a preacher!  Remember it is the task of a teacher to help people understand rather than get bitter  and angry at them for not understanding or appreciating what  you are saying. It is your job to help the sheep move from A to B, it is not the sheep’s job! I hope you are whole enough to be aware of others; empathetic enough to be as loving and sensitive as you can be as you declare truth;  and secure enough in the love of your Heavenly Father not  to attach too much weight to praise or anger. Jesus in John 5 makes a distinction between seeking honour and praise from one another and seeking the honour and praise that comes from the only God, telling us to seek the latter.  Insecure preachers who lack security in the love of God seek the former, indeed hunger after it with an insatiable hunger and will indulge in amazing antics to get it! I hope you can rest in your Heavenly Father’s  honouring of you as His beloved one, this Sunday. Preach and pastor, lead  and pray from that place always. Only then can we be faithful ministers, whatever the main thrust of our ministry that we have been entrusted with.

So go out there this Sunday and speak the truth of God with as much simplicity and grace as you can. You do not need eloquence. But I hope you have prepared and are not sloppy. The Bible extols the value of playing an instrument not any old way but skilfully unto the Lord! If you do all of that, then don’t worry too much if the sheep bleat! It is what sheep do…

I mentioned a few blogs back a couple of  John Wimber prayers that I often used before preaching, especially on those Sundays where there seemed to be not a moment’s peace before getting up to lead and preach: “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…” and “HELP!” There is a third prayer of my own  that I often prayed on  Sundays that is not as funny, sounds more Presbyterian and Scottish than Charismatic or American, but was as equally sincere  and not as falsely grave or pious  as it may sound to you at first reading: “Lord, help me to honour You as I seek to bless Your sheep. Bring honour to Your Name, O Lord.” You can use that prayer if you want, it is not copyrighted! It is not a myth or a pious hope to say that He really does honour those who  seek to honour Him.

God bless you brother or sister preacher, and God bless doubly those in your congregations who faithfully pray for you and God bless many times more those who can’t stand you or the gospel with fresh ears and hearts!


P.S. I just want to update this with some words from a Daily Readings book of  Henri Nouwen’s  writings that I read after I had written this blog. I suppose it is possible that some of us may think that to care only about what our Heavenly father thinks of us could make us insesnsitive. With that thought in mind here are the words from H. Nouwen:

Jesus is called Emmanuel which means “God-with-us” (see Matthew 1: 22-23). The great paradox of Jesus’ life is that he, whose words and actions are in no way influenced by human blame or praise but are completely dependent on God’s will, is more “with” us than any other human being.

Jesus’ compassion, his deep feeling-with us, is possible because his life is guided not by human respect but only by the love of his heavenly Father.

Simple but brilliant! I like it!