This Sunday I was given the privilege of preaching to our congregation on Matthew 7:7-12. For those of you who don’t know, I an associate pastor at a medium-sized church, which means I get somewhere between seven and ten opportunities to preach on a Sunday morning each year. By way of illustration this past Sunday, I expressed to the body that during the weeks when I preach I often feel a greater sense of dependence upon the Lord. Verses like James 3:1 – “… we who teach will be judged with a stricter judgment” and 1 Peter 4:11 – “… whoever speaks is do to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God” create in me a healthy fear of missing the point of the text and leading people away from the truth. So, I find myself praying often during those weeks and thinking hard about the meaning of the text and how it applies.
I praise the Lord for this reverent caution that he has given me and I need to realize that this kind of dependence is what should always characterize my heart, but the handful of weeks that I get to preach each year make me fearful of that time when I will preach almost every week. See, our church is planning on sending me out to another community close by to plant a church in the not too distant future and I will take on the responsibility of weekly bringing God’s truth to his people. My fear is that I will get used to preaching. By “get used to” I don’t mean a familiarity with preaching that will allow me to loosen up in the pulpit and preach with more focus and conviction. Rather, by “get used to” I mean that familiarity with preaching by which I stop depending on God so much and start depending on myself. I’m fearful of getting used to preaching in such a way that leads me to lose that sense of reverence for God’s Word and start flying by the seat of my pants as I proclaim it.
This is similar to my relationship with power tools that have blades. I’ve seen them and used them enough to know that the smallest lack of carefulness could lead to serious harm, so, while also remembering that I’m kind of a clumsy guy, my sensitivities are heightened and I use these tools with great concentration. In using them more, as I become familiar with how they operate, I want to keep that wariness for my own safety and the safety of others. So it is with preaching.
Church, be certain, this reverence of God’s Word must not just characterize me as a pastor, but everyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ. We all speak God’s Word, whether formally or informally, so we should all attach the same fear we have of God to his holy Word.