I am writing this one for those of you in ministry.
Throughout history there has always been a fine line between fear and faith; especially for those charged with pulpit ministry. It is a great privilege to stand before people to declare the Word of the Lord that you have been given. As you know, that privilege comes with great responsibility.
“Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.
“If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.” (Ezekiel 3:17-21)
The King James Version says “thou hast delivered thy soul”. Every time I stand before people to speak or sit down at the keyboard to write this verse comes to mind. It is always more important to say what God says than to say what people want to hear.
There are many times when the message that the Lord lays on your heart is encouraging, faith-building and causes the body to rejoice. It is always a lot of fun to “preach to the choir”. You know the messages I am talking about; the messages that your congregation loves to hear from you. These messages are good for the body of Christ and there is nothing wrong with them.
Then there are those times that God lays a different kind of message on your heart to deliver to the people. You know the messages I am talking about. Messages that demand change, commitment, sacrifice, repentance, etc. It can be challenging to preach these messages, but these are also good for the body of Christ.
Your constant challenge is the choice to please people or the choice to please God. If our preaching consistently makes everyone happy and never causes people to be disturbed in their comfort zone we are either preaching to the super sanctified or we are probably not preaching the scriptures. Please don’t read what I haven’t written here. I am not saying that all of your messages should be “turn or burn” (although I am a fan of “hell hot” and “eternity long”), but as long as your congregation is filled with humans, the word of God is going to challenge them to change.
If you are uncomfortable delivering unpopular messages or challenging messages to your people you are probably normal. The people who enjoy doing it are probably a little off on the love side of things, but the people who don’t do it or refuse to do it need to examine themselves. I have never read in the scriptures where prophets, apostles and preachers delivered hard words with a smile. They did, however, deliver the word of the Lord. Many times people accepted this word and responded the way God intended. There were, however, many times when the people did not receive the word of the Lord. Sometimes the one preaching was persecuted.
This is nothing new. Even Moses delivered unpopular messages. Almost every preacher, prophet, etc in the Old & New Testaments was called upon by the Lord to deliver messages that demanded change from people. Think about it. The people loved the miracles, signs and wonders performed by the Lord Jesus. It was His messages that caused the Jewish leaders to want Him crucified.
In today’s church life you probably receive:
- Notes in the offering from unhappy members
- Emails from people who though the pastor was too excited
- Most of the time they are anonymous, but here are some common complaints:
- The music was too loud
- We shouldn’t do that on Sunday morning
- Not everyone is on the same level pastor!
- We are living in the age of grace, aren’t we?
- I don’t think it takes all of that
- I come to church to find peace, I don’t want to hear things like…
- If you keep preaching things like that I am going to stop tithing
- We are a respectable congregation, your preaching is embarrassing us
You may think some of these responses are over the top, but ask your pastor sometime about the little notes that are passed along to them by the members of the church.
There are lots of things working against the Word of the Lord in the earth today, but the greatest among them is the fear of man living in the hearts of God’s people.
Depending on where you live, the price for being a Spirit-filled Christian may be higher than others. Many that read this blog live outside the U.S. where the social and personal price for being born-again is heavier than it is here in the U.S. Men and women who convert to Christianity from Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism are often ostracized by their family and friends. Those of you reading this message that have lived through this type of experience may be puzzled as to why I am writing this message. The unfortunate truth is that here in the U.S. our greatest fear as preachers is often that we will be ridiculed or that people will not give to our ministries.
I am sure these concerns run through the hearts and minds of ministers outside of the U.S., but they definitely weigh heavy upon those that I know. When you simplify it, what you are dealing with is fear; fear of man and fear of loss inspired by the pride of life.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
We cannot let fear keep us from declaring the truth of scripture to those to whom the scripture was written. We cannot live our lives or conduct our ministries biblically if we are more concerned with the reaction and approval of people than we are with the “Amen” of God.
Fear is your enemy. It will cripple your ministry and cause you to be a slave to the opinions of people rather than a servant of God.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. (1 John 4:18)
If we are born again, we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to answer for our lives.
So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. (2 Corinthians 5:9-11)
Delivering popular and unpopular truths from God’s Word are necessary because of God’s love for those to whom the message is delivered.
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:15)
- Do not let fear of what people will say or do keep you from speaking the Word of the Lord
- Overcome your fear and doubt by renewing your mind with the Word of the Lord and meditating upon the love of God.
Challenging messages are only delivered because of love.
- Love God enough to make His desires number one in your life and ministry.
- Love your people enough to deliver the message that God has for them.