Monday, August 13, 2007

The main reason that Grace Church is my favorite group of people on earth to worship with through the preached word of GOD is because they prepare

This one is easy. I most love worshiping through the Word of God with Grace because such a high percentage of the people come to the services with a prepared and consecrated heart having already spent time reading and praying through the day's sermon text.

I simply cannot express the joy of preaching to a prepared people. Rather than being intimidated because the people may know the passage better than I do (which is likely), I am thrilled because the Holy Spirit has more ammunition to work with in each person's life. So, when I stress a point a certain way, the Spirit may bring to an individual's mind and heart the thoughts he had on the previous Thursday when praying through the same text. And in combining my thought with the individual's thought, the Holy Spirit is driving the truth even more deeply into the person's life. Isn't that part of the main goal in preaching anyway (along with glorifying God)?

I can think of no better way to encourage our people to prepare for church than by reading, praying, and thinking about the day's sermon text. Sunday's are to be anticipated for many reasons. Sunday is sacred. Stephen Altrogge states it well:
"Sunday is sacred because we get to sing corporate praises to God, fellowship with other believers, and above all else, hear the precious word of God preached."
One may ask: Prepare? For corporate worship? Why? I simply come to church and sit and listen. How can I prepare? Why should I?
"In the Old Testament, the people of God prepared for sacred days, they consecrated themselves. There were special rituals of washing and cleansing that each person had to perform before being allowed to participate in the sacred day. (Read entire article here; HT: TC).
Since I'm made increasingly aware that other pastors are reading this blog, may I take the liberty now to share a word of challenge with those of you who are pastors? (Though I'm certain that I have much more to learn from you that I could offer).

Would you consider giving your sermon text to the people in advance?
Take heart, it is much easier than you might think. And, you are not "locked" into the text. If the Spirit leads, go someplace else. After all, I don't think it will harm our people too much if they have given generous attention to the "wrong" text!

Here's the incentive. I trust that you too will feel your people pulling the word of God out of you like I feel it from our little congregation in downtown Memphis. It is truly life-giving to have this experience almost every week! And, as another incentive, I think it will make you prepare better knowing that the people are preparing too (It has this effect on me)!

Certainly my love for preaching at Grace can be attributed to many things (I love the people, I'm a member of the church, etc.), but above all, I'm persuaded that it has to do with the way the people make preparatory use of something we call our "church card" (see image below) which we hand out at the beginning of each new preaching series. Each one looks a bit different, but they all carry the same idea. Feel free to use our idea, or modify it, but for the sake of your elevated joy in pastoral ministry, consider giving the people your text in advance. My guess is that you won't be sorry you did.

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