R.C. Sproul said, “We must not offend for the sake of offense, but we must also be careful not to take away the offense that is clearly in the Word of God!” How to do that?
I must confess that sometimes my preaching has been very confronting. I’m learning how to deliver the sermon in a way that fills the hungry soul, even if confronts the sinful behaviors well established in the lives of people.
Two main groups of people don’t like two opposing church poles and they leave these type of churches : 1) people who think that the sermons are very judging, moralistic, uncomfortable 2) people who think that sermons are not biblically-sound, superficiall, without any call for repentance.
There is a lot to discuss on these attitudes but it is for another post. At every church I preach I find people who love my sermon, those who like it, those who like part of the message and those who don’t like it.
Partly, I believe is where the person is in the journey to follow Jesus. Some people are hungry for him and other are not so hungry. Some are willing to get everything from His word and others already have done a compromise what they will do from the Bible.
Partly, is also my current situation. If I’m in the midst of questioning a religious practice myself -that might come out prematurely to the congregation and might sound difficult if it is not the one I’m pastoring. If I’m in a midst of a crisis – the one that has had more impact in me has been the lack of financial resources and the health of my family – that contributes too towards the non-positive tone of the message.
What a mature believer should do when hears a message? S/he needs to divide the personal notes from the preacher, the preacher’s experiences and the quotations from the Word of God. Sometimes I’m not comfortable with some shared experiences, but I receive the word of God from the preacher. Sometimes I disagree with the interpretation given to a Scripture, but in the same time I have learned something new and different of what I knew from that Scriptural viewpoint. If I come at your door angry and with a loud voice, because your weekend parties have became a thorn in my normal life as your neighbor – you shouldn’t focus on the tone of my voice, but on the message. If the tone of my voice is not appropriate, do not dismiss my message on your trespassing! If your kid hurts my kid and I ask you (being very hurt) to constraint your kid and help him to behave better, your shouldn’t focus on my reaction, but hear the message and understand why I’m angry as a parent.
Jesus didn’t preached offense to people, they were offended because He challenged what it was accepted by them normal and holy. Always truth offenses the lie and when the liar doesn’t disengage himself with the lie, then the liar becomes offended.
Everybody expects the church leaders to be corrected when they are wrong, but not everybody who likes the preacher to be perfect, appreciates the correction done from the pulpit or in a personal level.
Paul charged Timothy and us “Preach the word; be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). Later he continues, prophetically, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3).
Have you seen that already?
To Galatians Paul said, “For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10)
Surely, we as preachers could hide after these verses and try to cover our lack of patience or knowledge. But as I said earlier “don’t throw the baby with the water” when you hear a challenging sermon. We shouldn’t pick up sides saying that I’m more with grace or I’m more with the truth. The truth should be shared with grace and grace should be offered in truth.