Monday, July 09, 2007

Working with brethren

If you preach on a regular basis, you have no doubt "quit preaching" at least once or twice. In the past I have quit preaching, or at least seriously considered it--one time it lasted all of 3 months. I haven't done that in more than 20 years now, but I still get frustrated with brethren.

If the Lord wills, we will be in Dominica next week for vacation Bible school. In the second village we are going to, the school building is already reserved, as is housing for 15 people--all arranged for some time by the local preacher. In the first village, where we start in one week, they will go tomorrow to apply for the school building and hope we get the permission letter by Friday. I have arranged housing, etc. And the most frustrating thing is this is better than they've done in the past. And you think you work with brethren who won't do anything!

Seriously, the most frustrating thing to me (and I think most preachers) is not what outsiders do, but what brethren do (or don't do). What do you do with brethren who won't do anything, or worse yet, will only do something to oppose you?

I don't claim to have all the answers but what I have seen in 27 years of preaching is that frequently brethren won't do anything because they are not committed. They are not committed because their faith is weak--oh, they've made a commitment to attend services, maybe even lead prayer or wait on the Lord's table, but that's about it. Brother N. B Hardeman once said, "Never underestimate the ignorance of your audience." While some would be insulted by such a statement I don't believe that was his intention at all--he was just reminding preachers that not everyone in the audience is as knowledgable as you are. There are young people who are just beginning to listen, there should be babes in Christ, not to mention brethren who just weren't listening when you preached this before. I'm not saying to water sermons down, but make sure you lay the foundation for your applications--people don't remember what they don't understand. Now if you preach for a church that will only tolerate 30 minutes of preaching you're limited by that, but people must grow spiritually before they will act. Rom. 10:17 says, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." Faith can only be strengthened by hearing the Word. This kind of growth takes time and we as preachers sometimes don't have the patience needed.

Sometimes we also fail to take people where they are. Jesus took the Samaritan woman as she was, having had 5 husbands and living with another. The woman taken in adultery was forgiven and cautioned to "sin no more". Even if I am "perfect" (in my own eyes anyway) most people are not. They need to grow and improve, but we must take them where they are and help them to grow from that point. Again this requires patience and teaching on the part of the preacher.

So before we decide that "the brethren" are the problem, let us examine ourselves to see whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution.

Tol

2 comments:

drd said...

Tol,
Though we've never met, I feel a kinship to you for the following reasons: (1)Your connections to Columbia TN (my grandparents lived their whole life in Mt. Pleasant; (2)Your connection to Ed R. whom I'll be replacing in Sept.; (3)Most importantly, the tie that binds us together in Christ!!!

I've read many of your posts in the last several months and have always found your insights to be very encouraging and uplifting.

I've found this one to be most useful during the "times" I'm facing at this time... may we all spend more time praying for our brethren who are weak (regardless of their "years" as a Christian). As well as praying for ourselves that we not become "blinded" to our own growth and maturity or the lack thereof.

Anonymous said...

Tol,

Thanks for your insights. Many Christians exist in a "vacuum" of their own lives and cannot see reality. They do not exert themselves like the early church.
We have been disfunctional for so long that we would not recognize authentic New Testament Christianity.