There is tension in the pews.
Marriages are crumbling. Jobs have been lost. A sister is lonely. Someone’s health is failing. A brother is fighting an addiction. Depression is damaging a relationship. A believer is not sure he believes anymore. A teen wonders why her parents do not understand her.
Every preacher realizes the task facing him each Sunday- and he hurts with his church family. He carries within him the burden of trying to speak a word of help and hope- of grace and truth- to this tension.
Often, there is another type of tension in the pews. This concerns the preacher himself. He is aware of it too.
He is not experienced enough (read too young). He is not energetic enough (read too old). He needs to preach deeper sermons. His sermons are too deep. He needs more passion. He needs to be more entertaining. He is too dry. He tells too many stories. He is too liberal. He is too conservative.
The preacher hurts over this tension also- but it is a personal and quiet hurt. And if he is conscientious does try to sort through this tension too and work to address it as best he can understanding, however, that he cannot be everything everyone always wants him to be.
This is nothing new.
The Apostle Paul knew this tension in his ministry. Imagine facing the issues that defined the church in Corinth! Their immaturity, immorality, divisiveness, doctrinal and worship issues would challenge any preacher. Add to this mix the fact that- some at least- within this church were disappointed in the message that had been preached. They somehow had expected something more spectacular.
“God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” was Paul’s reply to that (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Further, it just wasn’t preaching in general they struggled with- it was Paul specifically. Apollos was more eloquent (a given- Acts 18:25). Peter was more dynamic (not hard to imagine Peter being dramatic). And Christ well who can compare to him? (See 1:12)
As he felt the sting of this tension he replied:
When I came to you brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (2:1-5)
Preachers come in all shapes, sizes and giftedness. For most of us- it is an adventuresome life calling. It is not just what we do, it is who we are. Our lives are irrevocably connected and intertwined with the church we serve.
We all can relate to Paul’s words. Preaching “Christ and him crucified”- that is our aim too. Leading people to resting their faith on God’s wisdom is also our goal.
That is why we do what we do- tension and all.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14)