1 Kings 17:24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
What’s really interesting to me about this is that it seems like it took her son being raised from the dead for this woman to recognize that Elijah was a man of God who spoke God’s truth. You would have thought the flour and oil not running out would have been a strong clue! People at times display a remarkable insensitivity to the things of God. Two people can be in the same service and one be touched deeply and experience intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit and another be bored to tears. That’s certainly not always the case, but it does happen. That makes the job of the worship leader and the speaker all the more challenging! However, if we focus too much on the congregation and how they will perceive things, we can close our own ears and hearts to what God is saying, becoming no better off than the person who is bored to tears. The answer, as it is in every area of life, is to draw closer to God ourselves and allow Him to use us in touching others. It is after all the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment. (John 16:8-11)
Beside me on the wall here I have an outline titled “Preaching to Change Lives.” I got it from a pastors’ session at a conference headlined by Mark Conner of Australia. The subtitle is, “John 12:49 – what to say and how to say it.” I looked that reference up again just now. “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.” If Jesus Himself made a statement like this, how much more do we need to let the Holy Spirit tell us what to say and how to say it?! I would say that one session with Mark Conner did me more good than the whole semester of Preaching I took in seminary! The first of the five points in the outline is indeed, “Who’s listening? (audience).” However, even there the guidance of the Holy Spirit is essential, because as the Gilbert and Sullivan song says, things are seldom what they seem. I need to ask and allow the Holy Spirit to show me the spiritual condition of my hearers. I personally am prone to talk over the heads of my audience, spiritually speaking. I was baptized over 60 years ago and the Bible is second nature to me, but that’s not the case for those I’m talking to. I need to seek God not only for the food to feed His flock, (John 21:15-17) but also for how to prepare and present it so that it will be taken in and digested. It’s entirely possible for me to speak what is entirely true and yet have it do my hearers no good at all. I am merely a channel for God’s truth, but I color what comes through me. I need to be humble enough that it’s more “Jesus color” than it is “Jack color.” I am not to put people down for spiritual immaturity, but gently and strongly encourage them to grow, so that together we may be the flock that God desires.
Father, once again I’m encountering challenges in this area, but then those are pretty constant! Help me respond to people with Your grace and love, never thinking I’m above them but bringing them along with me as I follow You. May I indeed serve them as You intend, so that I may be useful to You in building up the Church as You intend. Thank You. Praise God!