In less than 24 hours I’ll be preaching to and with my new church family. There will be a dozen people in our worship center who’ve heard me preach more than 200 sermons in person. These dear friends from Legacy know me. They love me and they know my deep love for them. But the overwhelming majority of the listeners tomorrow will be hearing me for the very first time.
And they need to know that I love our Lord. And I love them.
John Newton wrote that his congregation would take almost anything from him, however painful, because they knew “I mean to do them good.”
That is the litmus test for my preaching ministry. That’s my centering point for everything I do. Intending to always do them good means my sermon preparation is a more sacred endeavor than just satisfying my own personal love of study. It means my preaching will have characteristics that are maybe difficult to define but still sensed by my hearers that reflect what Paul meant when he talked about preaching and pastoring:
“We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” ~2 Corinthians 4:5
“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” ~1 Thessalonians 2:8
“I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well.” ~2 Corinthians 12:15
I have been receiving more phone calls and emails and text messages since yesterday from our brand new friends here at Central wishing me well, showering me with love and encouragement, and expressing their excitement. I received a voice mail this morning from a dear sister here who said, among other things, “We already love you and your family; you can’t do a single thing to make us love you more.”