Starving to Death in the Pews
The following is not a story thought up by an imaginative preacher simply to illustrate a point. It really happened.
She often sat in the auditorium, and as the preacher delivered his message, her young children noticed that she often wept. When one of them asked her why she was crying she said, “I come here every week, and I am starving for food, but I am getting nothing to eat. I am dying of thirst, but I am getting nothing to drink.” When they changed churches it all changed. She no longer wept in worship. She found that spiritual food for her soul was there, and her spiritual thirst was quenched by the waters which flowed from the pulpit.
I wonder how many Bible class teachers or preachers are like that one the woman first heard. I wonder how many individuals leave worship without having sat at the feet of one who, figuratively, first sat at Jesus’ feet. What kind of food do we give to those who come hungering and thirsting for God? I am not talking about lessons which are designed to create a feeling of spirituality, but one which uses God’s messages to heal the souls with the balm from heaven. Those who have little understanding of the place of preaching suppose that, when their “itching ears” are tickled and their hearts are stirred by “cunningly devised stories” delivered by a gifted orator (2 Tim. 4:3), they have grown spiritually. However, God designed the pulpit as a place where there would be edification, exhortation, comfort, reproof, rebuke and convincing, with a longsuffering heart and teaching (doctrine) (1 Cor. 14:3; 2 Tim. 4:2). Some who sat beside the woman who wept at what she was hearing may have felt they were getting what they needed. But, what they supposed were their needs was not what God knew were their needs.
So to my fellow teachers and preachers, let me urge that you examine your preaching. Great preaching does not come from great, emotionally driven stories. It does not come from discussion of sports, politics or your personal family experiences. They may be satisfying and entertaining to your audience, but God designed the pulpit to feed those who are hungry and to give them water to drink from the “living water” who lived on this earth. It takes far more time to prepare lessons which feed others than it does to use the internet to copy and then “parrot” lessons with moving illustrations, but this latter practice does not feed souls or build faith.
There is an audience which must be satisfied each week when you teach or preach. It is so easy to forget this truth. The audience which must be pleased at the end of your lesson is not the one which sits before you. The audience which matters is the one which is above you!