Every Sunday, I stand in front of people and preach a message of some kind. The one common factor is that every Sunday I open a Bible. Out of that Bible I attempt to communicate something about God. Not God in theory but God as he interacts with this world in general and with each one of us in particular.
I’ve got to tell you that doing such a thing is very humbling. Imagine getting up in front of hundreds of people and daring to talk about the living God. For me, this moment is a very sobering time; it is holy moment. It is more than a religious speech or talk that I am delivering. No, I actually believe that in some way the living God is at work in that moment to minister to, convict, and encourage the people to whom I am speaking.
Do you know what I see on any given Sunday? I see people just like myself: human beings who, for the most part, are just trying to deal with life. When I was in my late teens, I recall sitting in the church building where I grew up and feeling very, very confused. The inside of our church building was large. Being in church on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings was not an option. I respected my parents and wanted to please them, yet I was finding it more and more difficult to see how all of this intersected with my life.
After all, I watched the news. Robert Kennedy had been assassinated. Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered. Cities were burning out of control as more and more of them experienced race riots. There was so much unrest. Meanwhile, I had lots of concerns and questions that were churning within me. Yet, I remember listening to sermons that seemed to be so far from my life. I remember vividly sitting on the right-hand side of the church building near the back. The lighting was subdued and the minister, in a very dark suit, seemed to speak in a monotone voice. He never seemed upset or excited about anything. He never seemed sad or joyful. I just remember the monotone; one sermon really never seemed any different from another.
I remember feeling as if I were alone, disconnected from God, Jesus, and the Bible. It seems long ago and far away. I don’t intend to speak badly of this church. I am simply describing how it all seemed at the time.
Meanwhile, as I speak each Sunday to a group of believers, I try to keep in mind the people I have known who have been in these assemblies. Sometimes I wonder, how does a person in this particular situation hear these words?
One exercise that has been helpful is something I call, "What is it like?" What is it like to be in a particular situation and hear this message?
- What is it like to be divorced?
- What is it like to be a widow?
- What is it like to have a wife or husband walk out on you in order to be with someone else?
- What is it like to lose your job — to have an employer tell you that they won’t be needing you anymore?
- What is it like to have cancer?
- What is it like to be in a church, have a family, and yet be in the middle of an affair?
- What is it like to be in the middle of tremendous debt?
- What is it like to feel as if you have no friends?
- What is it like to always feel as if you are on the outside looking in?
- What is it like to be greatly overweight?
- What is it like to be in junior high school and have people make fun of you, day after day?
- What is it like to not be able to read?
- What is it like to be married and now realize that you should have listened to your family and friends when you were dating?
- What is it like to have lost a child in death?
- What is it like to be a closet alcoholic?
I really do believe that God can deal with us right where we are. I also believe that the Bible is a very relevant book. (God doesn’t need for us to make his Word relevant. Rather, it is our lives that need to be made relevant to the Bible.)
What are some other situations that those speaking the Word to groups need to keep in mind? What situation would you add to the above list?