Pastor's Blog

The central ideal I held when I entered the ministry was the belief in the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God.  The logic was simple.  The Bible is inspired – literally “God-breathed” or “God-spirited”.  His Spirit breathed out the words through the human authors, and so the Bible is God speaking.  Words of truth entering receptive ears change hearts, and changed hearts do the right thing and make both the church and the world better places.  This is how the power of the Holy Spirit works.

The conclusion I drew from my college experience was that pastors were less interested in expounding God’s Word clearly and more interested in keeping people happy in the pews, keeping the offering plates full, and running programs that watered down Christianity but that were fun and held crowds.  Pastors were watering down the truth.  Ministry was oriented toward children, and most preaching to the adult congregations didn’t extend beyond a child’s Sunday school level of understanding the Bible. 

The solution was to preach “solid meat”.  Make the message of the Bible clear to adults to make strong adult Christians who want to live out the message.

When the leadership of Mountain View Chapel interviewed me to be pulpit supply in 1982 that’s what I told them I believed needed to be done.  I would preach the Word of God accurately for adults and then we’d all get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit do the work.  That sounded good to them – and that’s what I set out to do.  I was 21 – and that’s when my REAL education began.

I started preaching in the gospel of Mark.  One of my first sermons was “John the Baptist and the Essene Community at Qumran.”  One little old woman named Alice, a long-time member of the church, listened to that sermon and the three weeks after that – and then she left the church.  I visited her and asked why she left.  “Because,” she said, “your sermons are like college classes about the Bible and history.  I don’t need to know all that college stuff.  I just need to know how to live TODAY.”

I felt my hackles rise.  People like this are the problem, I told myself.  She’s accustomed to meaningless milk.  She doesn’t want to have to chew.  She doesn’t want to do the hard work of learning.

As I was stoking the fire of my anger, justifying myself and my view of ministry, another train of thought started chugging through my head.  “She was painfully truthful with you, Chris.  That’s honorable, don’t you think?  And doesn’t she have a point?  People do need to know how to live today, don’t they?”

Yes, I argued inside my head, but that’s the HOLY SPIRIT’S job, not mine!

The other train started building up steam.  “Suit yourself.  What good is your theory if you don’t reach people where they are?  How much of the world will change if you're preaching to an empty church?  Isn't it worth it to win Alice back?”

“Alice,” I said, “would you give me another chance?  Would you come back to church?  I promise to work on being a better preacher.  I will try to do a better job on talking about how to live today.”

Alice came back and became one of my biggest supporters and good friends till the day she died.  And that little encounter launched – I don’t know if you could call it a dance or a wrestling match – perhaps both – with the Spirit of God as He worked to change, not just the way I did ministry, and not just the way I thought about ministry, but to change ME.

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