I’m a preacher. That means I love to talk … and talk and talk and talk and talk! The longer I’ve been preaching, and the longer I’ve been around preachers, the more I’ve become convinced that a lot of preaching is done without any awareness of God’s presence.
Now, no one would want to admit that. We would all offer a theologically correct answer about how God is always present and his Spirit tends to the preaching of the Word … blah blah blah.
But, honestly, how many of us are paying attention to the voice of God while we are preaching? Most preachers are paying attention to their well-crafted manuscripts and outlines. You see, God speaks to us through our exegesis while in our studies. Right?
Amen! I agree 100% with that. That is the reason I spend a TREMENDOUS amount of time doing exegesis in my study. I take the Bible seriously, and I believe that God speaks to us through the Bible.
But again, honestly, how many of us are paying attention to the voice of God while we are preaching? Not our manuscripts. Not our outlines. God. Yes, the living God.
This past week I had an interesting experience while preaching. I am currently preaching through the Gospel According to Mark. I was just returning to this book after taking a break from it during the summer. I was very eager to jump back in and plow away, wanting to get through as much of the book as possible before the holiday season arrives.
So off I go, recapping where we left off, setting up the context of the current passage, and beginning to give a bit of insight into the first few verses, when suddenly God spoke …
“Mark, don’t get in my way.”
I froze mid-sentence, wondering…
“What? What does that mean?”
I had been speaking about the way in which Jesus looked upon the crowd with great compassion. I was talking about the brokenness and pain that people suffer and the need to see Jesus as one who looks upon our pain and suffering with great compassion. He doesn’t turn us away, but rather he invites us to him—we must see Jesus as compassionate or we will never come to him.
It was there, at that moment, that I heard God say, “Mark, don’t get in my way.”
It was the gentle and compassionate voice of the One I was calling people to. I could either continue on with my sermon or I could pay attention to the One I was preaching about.
What it really came down to was a question of who was more capable—me or Jesus?
Was I more capable of preaching them out of their pain or was Jesus more capable of being with them in their pain?
I stopped right there. I simply said, “I’m stopping right here. I’m not going to go any further. Instead I’m going to give you space, space to be with this Jesus who sees you in your pain and looks upon you with compassion.”
I took a minute or two to invite them into a time of silence, to sit with Jesus and share their burdens with him while he listened with great love and compassion. I then went and sat down. For the next 15-20 minutes our whole church simply sat in silence and people simply shared their burdens with Jesus. When the service was “officially” over, many people remained seated, continuing in prayer for some time.
I was reminded of something great—Jesus is a much better pastor than I am. He knows his people better than I do. He sees what I can never see. He is capable of doing what I can never do.
My job, and the job of all preachers, is to know Jesus well enough to recognize when it is time to get out of his way.