Thursday, May 9, 2013
Two of the Most Often Asked Questions From Pastors & Missionaries [Part Two]
Question Two: I often get asked by preachers when they begin to understand that Sunday morning worship services are not the best/only avenue for changing lives and equipping the saints: "But what do I do with my gift?" Granted, some of the people asking are not actually THAT gifted, so its likely the world would not notice if they stopped speaking every Sunday. But I remember when Francis Chan asked me that same question. No one can argue that Francis is not made by God to speak to an audience, but even he had to count this cost...and he did.
My usual answer to this question goes something like this: If God has given you a gift He wants you to use it and will give you the opportunity to do so. But one thing I am sure of, He doesn't want you to use your gift at the expense of everyone else in the room not using theirs. That is not the way it is supposed to be.
I used to love preaching every Sunday. I would spend 20-30 hours a week preparing my sermons. If you were to tell me back then that I would give up preaching from a pulpit every Sunday I would not have believed you. I distinctly remember early one Sunday morning, however, as I was putting the finishing touches on another "great" sermon that I felt the Lord's presence with me. He whispered in my ear (not audible), "You know, Neil, you are never going to start the 3rd great awakening by preaching a sermon." That was all I heard Him say to me and with that He challenged me to understand that it is much more than preaching sermons that is needed to awaken the kingdom of God in people and start a movement. From that point on, I counted the cost and became open to other ways of equipping the saints. I became discontent with only challenging a few people and would pursue something that would launch movements of people. I also became a better preacher.
It seems that I am teaching and speaking more now than I ever did before (and to a whole lot more people) it just isn't in a worship service on Sunday mornings. So if God designed you to do a work He will figure it out. Paul wrote of us: "For we are His workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."(Eph. 2:10)
No matter how good you are at preaching (and lets face it, you're probably not as good as Francis Chan), you need to weigh your own personal fulfillment against the fulfillment of the ministry of the Saints in the body. Are you willing to surrender your gift for the sake of the people you are preaching at? That is a true test of your faith and your calling if you ask me. I would imagine that if you count the cost and are willing to pay the price for the sake of others then you do have something valuable to say and God will find a way to use your gift.
If preaching is more important to you than the people you are preaching at then you should probably prepare yourself to find another line of work. Its not just what you say that makes you significant; it is the life within you–that you live out between services–that makes what you have to say significant. Living with Jesus among His people and on His mission is more important than just preaching about Jesus. If you live a courageous life of faith in Christ then you will not only find you have lots to say, but that others want to hear it.