Being the Word
I remember the long hours of studying at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary to achieve the goal of becoming a preacher. They, the faculty, directed us towards this end. We practiced exegesis; studied church history; debated Christian ethics; read systematic theology; memorized Greek; preached messages. We did these things to become the next Charles Spurgeon, even though Spurgeon didn't go to seminary. The pulpit ruled at my school. The Word held preeminence. I loved it.
It has been thirteen years since I graduated from the rarefied, ivory towered walls of seminary to live in the lowly mud flats of the real world (tongue in cheek). Since that time I served as an associate pastor, senior pastor, and now a senior associate leader. I have preached over six hundred messages, taught countless classes, and discipled many people. What did I learn from all of this oratory experience? Preaching and teaching, even though important, pales in comparison to being The Word. What do I mean by this?
Jesus walked the earth full of grace and truth (John 1). People saw the Bible when they looked at Him. He set the bar when it came to effectiveness in ministry. We are called to the same incarnated life.We are called to be The Message, the Word permeating our whole life.
The Old Testament proclaimed that God would put the Law of God into our hearts, transforming them from stone to flesh, ignorance to wisdom, death to life. Our life is now hidden in Christ through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (Col 3:3). Christ's Spirit now flows through us. Instead of only one Christ walking the earth, we now have millions.
I took a speech class in my undergraduate years called Persuasion. After reading countless books, sitting in on boring lectures, and writing a few papers, I learned one thing: credibility is the ultimate tool of persuasion. In a world of countless preachers, few look and live like Jesus. Haven't you seen this same phenomena? I've seen it in my own life. Credibility needs to be rebuilt.
Living the life is the narrow path. It's the only path. It's the true path to effectiveness as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus. People are not persuaded today by just preaching. The image of the preacher is one of celebrity rather than Christ-likeness, money rather than meekness, flashiness rather than faithfulness.
The question should not be, "Am I a good preacher?" The question should be, "Do I reflect Jesus?" "Do I reflect the Word of God?"
What would be the best training for an up and coming minister of the Gospel? Living a few years of just serving the poor, bandaging lepers, healing the sick, delivering the oppressed, feeding the hungry, being the Word. We are called to serve our wife, children, friends, family, neighbors, strangers, dog, cat, goldfish with a heart of love, no strings attached, given away freely. One doesn't need to go to Calcutta to be like Christ. It's a lifestyle.
I don't know why I am writing this? I guess I'm on a quest for authenticity. I'm sick and tired of doing useless ministry devoid of eternal value. Honestly, I do not want to preach another sermon unless I intend to walk like Jesus. Anything less would be hypocrisy. This is not perfectionism, but true ministry. I can't save or help anyone, but Jesus through me can. Jesus, through you can do the same too. It's time to turn the world upside down rather than the world turning the church upside down. Christ-like ministers living Christ-like lives will accomplish this. We are all full time ministers of the Gospel regardless of our paid or non-paid status. Christ dwells in us all.
Emphasis should be on changing the temple of our lives rather than the air conditioning of our modern day monstrosities we call church. Many place too much emphasis on the externals at the expense of the internal; the area that really matters to God (1 Samuel 16:7).
How do we do this? Acts 4:13 states, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." The verse speaks for itself. We need to hang out with Jesus. He will draw the Word out of our lives.
Every day is a new day to be The Way. Every circumstance is a new opportunity to live The Truth. Every conversation is a new adventure to practice The Life (John 14:6). We are called to be The Word. Bless you my friends.
Dear Children, let us not love with words or tongue, but in action and in truth.
1 John 3:18