I’ve been debriefing a little this morning on this year’s General Assembly. One take-away that surfaced was the importance of staying focused on the mission at hand.
Let me illustrate…the debate on the General Council floor.
I can’t count the number of times over the years that I have witnessed people arise to defend and promote an issue that they were passionate about or to warn and guide the Council from making an unwise choice but forget why they were there and ended up making outrageous or insulting and dishonoring remarks and ended up “shooting themselves in the foot” by alienating the very people they were trying to convince to consider their view. (Wow, what a long “Dickensesque” sentence!)
Here’s the thought I want to leave with you today:
We can do the same thing from our pulpits at home.
I can’t tell you the times over the years that I wanted to take a jab at some “trouble-maker” in the church. Oh it is so tempting!
But I would remind myself of something my dad taught me. He said, “Son, remember, every time you start shooting at the goats in your congregation you’ll usually miss them but always hit the sheep.”
Dear fellow preacher/teacher of the Gospel, when you rise to speak stay focused on why you are there. Ultimately you represent Jesus. The goal is to make Him more winsome, desirable, majestic and glorious, not prove your point, get back at someone, or even to defend yourself.
Remember you can prove your point but poke people in the eye while doing so.
You can make your little jabs but you’ll never win the match.
When rising to speak you can gain a laugh but lose a following.
It is a privilege to be a preacher and teacher of the Gospel and to represent Jesus Christ. Let us commit to handling that terrifying privilege carefully. In closing I offer a few observations:
- Most often preach/teach series or expositorily (systematically going through a book or passage of the Bible). People know when you are taking a pot-shot at someone and, even if they agree with you, will lose respect for you for doing it. However, there are times that the flock does need to be rebuked and corrected; systematically going through the Bible or a particular topic will give you the opportunity to do so with integrity and with measured, thought-out restraint. (Hammer the nail without bending it.)
- Don’t make your ministry about you. You will get hurt in the ministry. People will say things about you, misrepresent you, misunderstand you, and even try to hurt you. There will never be a church you serve where everyone likes you or agrees with you all the time. But dear friend, it is not about us; it is always about Jesus Christ. At least to the point of being crucified, stay focused on representing Him well.
- Finally, find a way to honor the people you disagree with. Swallow your pride and remind yourself that you do not have a monopoly on wisdom. Listen to them, they may not be as sharp and articulate as you but they may be right or at least partly right. For sure, they can help you hone your own arguments and beliefs so that they will be more understandable and acceptable.
I’ve been to many Assemblies now. There have been many memorable one-liners and riposte but sadly, not a lot of change of hearts. We are still debating many of the same issues that we’ve been debating for years. But you can create a safe-zone in your church where people with a different point of view from you can come and be celebrated and respected and where you can reason together.
Remember, the goal is to get people to Jesus-He’ll take it from there.