God is not finished with me yet. Praise the Lord, he’s not done! He’s still working on me. And, by the power of his Holy Spirit, he uses people and circumstances and books and friends and strangers and situations to shape me more into the image of his great Son.
Right now our Father is using Kipi’s class on conflict resolution and a little book recommended by my great friend Jim Martin to show me how to better manage myself as a preacher. I especially want to share one wonderful insight and recent conclusion that has greatly reduced my burden and given me great comfort and peace. And freedom.
I’m afraid my private conversations with friends and church shepherds — those inside and outside our congregation at Legacy — involve some form of the question, “How can I get these people to….?” I’m afraid that’s my mindset. When seeking advice from others or when wrestling with our God in prayer, I often ask, “How can I get these people to listen? How can I get these elders to understand? How can I get these volunteers to act? How can I get these church members to think? How can I get these brothers and sisters to see?”
That kind of thinking and acting, that sort of mindset, would easily lead to frustration, don’t you suppose?
In her book Leaders Who Last, Margaret Marcuson says preachers should stop asking those kinds of questions and, instead, ask, “What am I called to say to them this week?”
I am responsible to do my best to preach God’s Word as I understand it to my congregation every week. I am responsible for challenging our church family and calling them to repent and live their lives worthy of our calling. I’m ordained to provoke them by God’s Word to do more and to be more. And that’s about it. These people are responsible before God for what they do with that Word each week. I can’t make anybody do anything.
It’s not, “How can I get them to…?” It’s, “What am I called to say?”
That takes the pressure off. That brings me great relief and peace of mind. It helps me trust more completely in God. Less of self and more of thee. Because if my faith really is in my Lord, if I really do believe he’s working through me in this church to transform all of us, I can relax. I don’t have to worry about taking care of everybody because I know the results of my preaching don’t depend on me. They depend wholly on God.
Marcuson says a church needs to be led, not driven.
“The concept is clear: people are not acquitted of the responsibility for their own souls. Personal decisions are still decisions, personal judgments are still judgments, free will is still free will. Being in a family does not relieve a child of the responsibility to grow up. The function of twenty-one-year-olds is not to do life’s tasks as their parents told them to when they were six-years-old. The function of twenty-one-year-olds is simply to do the same tasks well and to take accountability themselves for having done them… The role of leadership is not to make lackeys or foot soldiers or broken children out of adult Christians.”
Probably the best thing I can do as a preacher is to teach the Word of God, to communicate my understanding as clearly as I can, challenge my hearers, and then give them room — and time! — to respond.
Look at Jesus. He preaches and teaches out of this amazing position of relaxed trust. Trust in God and trust in people. He simply says, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.” If Jesus can give that kind of room and time to others, without chasing after them and hounding them for their own good, maybe I should give more effort to doing the same thing.