Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lowly Preaching

This past Sunday I preached on Matthew 13:53-58 where Jesus is rejected in his hometown of Nazareth. One of the reasons that Jesus is rejected is because they know his family, they know his humble hometown beginnings. They marvel at his teaching but they reject the power of his message because he was a carpenter's son, Mary's boy, one with normal brothers and sisters. Like Isaiah 53:2, Jesus had no stately majesty and people seem to reject him for that reason.

But this brings us to a point about pastoral preaching: don’t let the lowly origins of the messenger turn you off from the power of the message.

As you sit in church and listen to the sermons what are you looking for in preaching? Some people look for an exciting, dynamic preaching, someone who can woo men. He can appeal to the ear. Some looking for someone who is bubly and outgoing. Everyone has an idea of what a perfect sermon is. Everybody has the idea of the perfect preacher.

Nobody likes a guy who is unassuming, unimpressive. This is true in our day, this is true in Paul's day.

The Corinthians wanted a cultured polished speaker but what does Paul say?
1 Corinthians 2:3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,
4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  
2 Cor. 11:6 “But even if I am unskilled in speech”

The Corinthians wanted “powerful” preachers, men who could boast in great ministry. They wanted men of polished rhetoric to speak to them. Paul refers to the type they listened to as "super-apostles" in 2 Corinthians. They were leaders who were “large and in charge”... there problem is Paul was that we was a weak and feeble preacher. Unimpressive, constantly held down by human weakness, struggle with physical problems and even constantly plagued by weakness:
2 Corinthians 11:19 For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly.
20 For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. 

This is the type of leadership and preaching that was tolerate and even applauded in Paul's day. The speaker would make a seen on stage, even abuse the listeners. He would display his power and authority by even going so far as to smack his audience.

What's more, is that in our day, we often value speakers who exalt themselves. We, as evangelicals often flock to those who can attract large crowds. Those who have the most reputable ministries. We love a speaker who has made something for himself. Sure we pause for faux humility "God has blessed my church with such growth" but then we continue right on through with self-exaltation. Preachers publish their methods in books with reproducible 'how-to's'.

Let's be honest, if an apostle Paul came to us and his preaching was characterized by fear and trembling. If he wasn't much to look at and his voice did not resonate with power and personality--we would have no use for such preaching. It would be too weak and lowly for our test. If Paul failed to command the room and drive our attention to him by his style--we, like the Corinthians, would want nothing to do with him.

Consider this: What attracts you to Jesus? His lowliness, his humility, his weakness by which he died for us?

Are those the same things that attract you to the church? Humility, lowliness, an unassuming message that is basic and simple: rooted in God’s Word? If not, why not?

I would suggest it is a huge misplacement of priorities to love humility of Jesus and his spiritual power but to look for 'spiritual power' in preacher who are trendy, cutting edge and "can really bring it" by means of their own abilities and commanding presence.

Over and over again in the NT, the pattern of Jesus' earthly life before his exaltation is the pattern of Christian life and ministry. 1 & 2 Corinthians is replete with the theme of human weakness as the means by which God brings spiritual power. This is so that we might boast in the gospel but not in men.

Jesus’ powerful person and powerful message was cloaked in humble lowly origins. 

Sadly today, Jesus’ own bride does not welcome His message in unassuming means of lowly preachers, rather we are too often looking for thrills and chills. We want a power encounter orchestrated and manipulated by “power worship” and “power preaching” rather than activities of human weakness and unassumingness that come with God’s Spirit. We want a preacher who exudes confidence and excitement by the force of his personality, never one who stands meekly, trembling in fear and weakness. 

Are you willing to have an ordinary messenger, with an ordinary worship service so that the power can be in the Word and the Spirit can come as He wills? Or are you looking for a fancy show, are you wanting me to impress you, to pizz-az you? We live in a culture that values entertainment and hype and it has effected the way we view preaching.

The church faces constant pressure to “prove” it is relevant by trying to be more entertaining, more hyped. More exciting than everybody else. The worship better “rock us” and make us feel good. The preacher had better have the analysis of Dr. Phil, combined with the humor of the stand up comedians, all while having the brevity of a Dr. Abby column.

Are you willing to feed on simple exposition of the Word of God --oridinary origins of a sermon--so that God’s Spirit might touch your heart with power? Are you looking for the demonstration in power that comes solely from the Word of God--so that your faith might be in it? Or are you looking for a powerful preacher so that you might come to him?

1 Corinthians 2:1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 
2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 
3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 
4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 
5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 

No comments:

"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...