A couple of weeks go, I wrote a piece entitled “Redeeming the Time” on some of what I had been learning during this strange time of social distancing and self isolation. I have continue to have that on my mind, the thought of what I have learned/been learning, and something else has arisen. And, I’m slightly ashamed to say, what I have learned, and hopefully begun to mend, is that my preaching has been lacking in one area.
Lacking you say?
The most difficult time I have during sermon preparation, at the current time, is finding out the application of the text. Sometimes it pops right out at you, but at other times (most of the time), I feel like I’m trying to pull out my eyeball without breaking any connections to read something on the inside of my eye socket. However, the Lord through His Holy Spirit always works a work and reveals what it is. And for that, I am forever grateful. Now having my points of application, I have generally stopped there. For most of my preaching, when I was doing pulpit supply in Illinois to my pastorate here in Missouri, I would stop with the Biblical application to our lives and never bridge the gap from that application to practical application in our daily lives.
I know to some it may sound trivial, but to me, and many preachers out there, this is huge thing that I have left out. And the Coronavirus has smacked me right in the forehead with this realization. How has the Coronavirus managed to do this?
By putting so many opportunities to minister and serve and love our neighbors as ourselves.
I’ll explain how this happened. At the end of nearly all my sermons over the past year or so, I have ended with three things: A call to repentance, a call to be baptized, and a call to surrender to ministry. The call to repentance comes from Mark 1:15 where Jesus says, “repent and believe in the gospel.” To be baptized is simple, as that step of obedience of believers’ baptism, covenanting with the church one’s profession of faith. The surrender to ministry is where this particular journey began…
As I was preaching to, at first, an empty sanctuary with my phone recording a video of my preaching, I would call people to surrender to ministry, and point out how many ministry opportunities are out there, staring at us, that have been opened up by the Coronavirus. Calling, praying, writing letters, picking up groceries…you get the idea. Thinking about this while I was working on my sermon preparation, I had this “AH HA!” moment where I quite literally smacked myself in the forehead, and said out loud, “Why aren’t I putting this concept in with my application points to make it more practical to the congregation?!” And I had this realization what my preaching had been lacking for so long.
Now, I am not saying that my preaching has been bad, unfruitful, or lacking in practical application. However, what the practical application should/could look like in the context of rural Missouri has been missing. And for that, I am deeply sorry. However, in the same breath, I praise God for this being brought to my attention and that I have begun to remedy this. I praise God for the opportunity to proclaim His Word day after day. I praise God for the fact that His Word never returns to Him void.