Discerning and Judging the Preacher
Classic depiction of last supper.
What is a Preacher?
Discernment is a gift given to all but nurtured by too few. Judgment in the day to day is critical, or else we run into the car in front of us or step off a cliff. Judgment is given to all, but is a skill needing constant work. A preacher is not someone who tells you what to think but one that helps you to think and feel and believe. So we must discern and judge. Discerning and judging and evaluating our preacher is critical to our survival as a good believer.
Yes I am Christian. So this article will reference Christian notions. However I hope that what ever faith you practice you can apply the concepts set forth herein.
Today this author was up far before dawn finishing his thoughts for the preaching to do today. Yes I am a preacher man. And so in organizing my daily meditations on today's scripture it struct me that I should evaluate again; what should a preacher man do, and how shall he do it.
Please note that this preacher man is a man. So I normally try to include the feminine in works that I do. But in this article I will keep in in my gender.for I would hope in doing so, I do not presume to ignore the differences there may be for our fine fine women of the service.
Service and Servant.
He who last shall be first. The last supper was so cool in so many ways however my favorite part is the washing of the feet of the disciples. I always like to give it a twist that I hope some will recognize: One small step for Jesus but one giant leap for mankind. It was a total and unequivocal demonstrative command that those who lead must first and foremost serve. And they must do it without reward expected or received. For yes they serve man but only as a by product of serving God.
A servant is someone who follows commands blindly when required and exercises judgment and a willfulness to serve on one's own when required. It takes some wisdom to know the difference and when either is appropriate.
A preacher must first appear to us as a servant who is less than us. This is critical. If they are seen as a leader first and a servant second the preacher man needs to change.
Keep your eye on the ball
Just look at the eyes. They are firmly focused.
I have been so privileged in my life to have played and coached all the major "ball sports" Football, Basketball, Baseball, and Soccer. Of course my coaching has all been with children. We teach one thing first. " keep your eye on the ball" (humorously in fact this first lesson with little ones is so it does not smack them in the face) But perhaps there is a metaphor there regarding keeping your eye on God lest he smack you in the face ;-)
Jesus kept his eyes focused on God. God was his master.
So our preacher man must be firmly committed and appear firmly committed to focusing his attention on praise to God. The counseling the service and the sermon must come in second and you must both see it and feel it in the preacher. A preacher man cannot possibly lead unless he is first led. Unless he is a follower first he may not be a leader.
I include this song. I promise that if you listen a few times and then sing along and do it every day. You will remain in service and focus.
The order of a service
I love all kinds of services. But I require two things. Relating the scripture the preaching is based upon. And a liturgy of some sort that includes community confession of sins and community prayer. Of course I like it to include music and some sort of sharing of the peace with each other.
And it must be accompanied by two things also -- an offer to join in meaningful Bible study and a community gathering afterwords.
My wife and son and I like to attend a service that goes with an Old Testament reading, Psalm singing by congregation, an Epistle reading and then the Gospel reading.
Funny that. I had been reading for the congregation the Epistles. Then I was asked to read for our English speakers the Gospel. I declined for clearly I was not worthy. I took my eye off the ball. So God hit me with it in the face that week and let me know it was not about me. It was about service. Believe me when I was later asked to start teaching and preaching I could not say "of course i would love to serve" quick enough.
So if the preacher does not make certain that you know what scripture he is preaching about. Be weary.
In the early Christian churches this was not the symbol.
As for me I walk into a church and either do or do not feel the love.
Love is essential and it must be palpable. Sometimes I am in a bad space in my head and heart. That does not matter. One should be able to walk into the place of a preacher -- where he does his preaching and feel the love. I mean it seriously. These two commandments that all the rest hang upon are sacrosanct. If the preacher man gets up and hides behind a large podium and preaches anything that does not ring true with love there is something wrong. Oh podiums are fine if the are not security blankets or a means of separation between the preacher and his flock and some teaching of unrpented sin and consequences are all good and fine. But we all know the difference between when a parent disciplines his child in love or in anger. Preacher men get to get angry at certain activities but not with people. We just lose that right when we accept the service.
Grade your preacher
Does your preacher act in some accord with these suggestions?
What does your preacher do?
Does your preacher tell you what to think?
If you put all of this together into a practice you will find that the role of the preacher man is not to tell you what to believe or think. It is to motivate you. To suggest direction. To do a little teaching and a whole lot of loving. So as I finish up preparing for my preaching today I must evaluate myself and my intentions. As you must do of your preacher.
The early sign of the church was basically Christ as a shepherd with a sheep over his shoulders carrying him into safety. Shepherd do not yell commands to sheep. They, through practice and patience gently push them in a general direction that the sheep soon realize is either greener pastures or home to safety.or to quench their thirst.
So I hope in your life your preacher does not tell you how to think and feel but lends some guidance so that your path is headed in a grace filled direction.