(This article was originally published in April 2008 on http://htmlsite.methodist.org.sg/apr2008/reflections.html)
THE ministry of preaching and teaching is a holy calling that is accompanied by a most solemn responsibility, that of faithful and responsible study and instruction of God’s holy Word to the end that the saints of God be strengthened in their faith, walk and work in the Lord.
I count myself extremely privileged to be called by the Lord into such a ministry, one that I was not naturally made for, one that I do not deserve.
As a teenager, before I knew the Lord, though I could speak fluently with friends, I just could not communicate coherently, smoothly and without an embarrassing amount of anxiety and pure, salty sweat before an audience – even a small group.
I can remember stuttering through the intra-class debate in secondary school, totally nerve-wrecked, perspired and uninspired. I can also remember that disastrous first testimony I gave in church at the speed of 240 words per minute!
Someone once said, “when the Lord calls, He also empowers and equips”. I cannot agree with this statement more because when the Lord actually called me to preach my first message at the age of 23 – 20 years ago – in front of a group of New Town Secondary School students. He enabled me to speak rather smoothly and with a definite amount of conviction. I don’t know if anyone else was, but I was blessed and inspired.
Since then, the Lord has provided me with many opportunities to grow in His Word, in the Christian faith and in the ministry of His Word. I have often said, “if God can make me a preacher, He can make ANYONE a preacher”.
I totally recognise that I do not deserve this ministry because of my many failures and weaknesses, but by the grace of God, His call remains.
Having been given this ministry of the Word, I seek to be responsible in study, preparation and the instruction of God’s Word. Being human, I fail frequently, but I thank the Lord for His patience with me.
The following are SEVEN “GOTTA’s” I deem to be of great importance in the ministry of the Word:
1. Gotta hear a Word from heaven – I have nothing to say on my own, my task is to speak that which God wants me to speak at the right time, in the right place, and to the right people.
2. Gotta talk with the people – not merely talk to them; I seek to connect with people and draw them in every now and again so that they feel involved with me as the message progresses.
3. Gotta have light moments – I find ways to be humorous – whether by means of a joke, an expression or even by going round with the microphone asking questions – and I find that often times, these moments help people to remember the rest of the sermon.
4. Gotta be real – I find that people are crying out for authenticity in our post-modern society; people, young and old, are drawn by an authentic messenger far more than by an articulate message; messengers of God’s truth today need to be brutally honest and share about their life and walk with God, talk about the joys and the sorrows, the victories and the failures. There was a time when citing a fancy story about some distant and dead famous person from eons ago would move the hearts of people, but that alone will not do today; the congregation wants more of you the preacher, and wants to know how God and faith in God works for you.
5. Gotta be relevant – I try to be relevant in a few ways: First, to illustrate my point with a true story (usually one about myself or someone I know) in a context people are familiar with; second, I use a high amount of video and audio clips because people today often communicate and learn through such means.
6. Gotta preach with conviction – I believe when people listen to a sermon, they are not looking for an opinion, instead they are hungering for a conviction. In a society that is increasingly inclusive and permissive, solid biblical convictions properly communicated by godly, authentic and convicted men and women of God are desperately needed.
7. Gotta be faithful to Scriptures – at the end of the day, one can have all the communicative skills, all the high fashion suits, all the expensive multi-media illustrations, and all the best music, but if one is not faithful to Scriptures, if one compromises God’s Word through creative interpretations, then regardless of the crowd such a preacher draws, the ministry is at best destructive.
When Jesus spoke about a tree and its fruit in Matthew 7, his point was not the number of fruit on a tree but the nature of the fruit. A bad tree will produce bad fruit and there can be many bad fruit hanging from a bad tree. Only a good tree will produce good fruit and that is what God desires.
May the Lord anoint us to preach prophetic messages for our generation, and to preach with conviction and fire in our bones.