Out of the Abundance of the Heart: Priorities for Preachers

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Judy and I went out for tacos the other day. We went to a favorite spot and enjoyed carne asada, carnitas, and a fabulous cheese crisp. The place was quite busy and the atmosphere jovial. At one point, I visited the men’s room. It only has room for one person, so there’s often a line. For a man of my length, the quarters are remarkably cramped, making the whole process a contortionist’s challenge. In addition, the odor is not necessarily favorable to appetite. But here’s the thing: I enjoyed my meal immensely and I will go back. In fact, I am a frequent guest at this place, I know what the men’s room is like, yet it never influences my decision on where to get a taco. And it’s not just me. I didn’t hear a single comment from other patrons concerning the toilets. I only heard the sounds of conviviality and gratification.

Having served 4 churches as a pastor, I am painfully aware of how nit-picky folks can be when they are “church shopping.” (I believe that term is an abomination) I fully believe that we should do all the natural things we can to enable seekers and worshippers to access the Word, the Presence, and the Fellowship with as few hindrances as possible. That being said, I often wonder if we spend too much time and money fooling with facilities and techno-trinkets, and not enough time and focus making sure people have an encounter with God. If they experience the Eternal, they might overlook the flowers in the bathroom. I would. So here’s my short list of priorities to make up for facility flaws and production problems:

  • Pray. Jesus did it before every big event, sometimes all night. If He needed it, I might need it, too. Get His mind, get his anointing, recognize your inability to do this without Him. (If you think you can do it yourself, you are disqualified)
  • Prepare. Read, study, and meditate until your message burns inside you.. (Don’t recycle somebody else’s stuff. You’re not a squab. chew it for yourself.) If you can’t get in the pulpit and say, “Thus saith the Lord” with a straight face, then let somebody speak who can.
  • Worship. A great worship service starts in the heart of the Pastor. It flows through the vessels he appoints to lead. In order to lead worship, you need to be a worshiper, if you can sing or play, that’s nice, but not necessary.

Somebody Said: “Just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how.” Thomas Merton

Scripture Reading: For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, Philippians 3:3 NLT

Here’s the Point: The gathering of the saints to worship and feed on the Word is the centerpiece of our existence. Because we love God and people, we do natural stuff to make the experience less difficult. But if the priority has become the presentation instead of the Presence, we have lost the meaning of what Jesus did, who we are, and why we are here. By all means, clean the bathrooms. But before you do, prepare. Prepare yourself in prayer, you can’t do this alone. Prepare the Word in private, no lives will change without it. Prepare your heart in worship, you can’t lead people to a place you’ve never been.

Pastor Virgil Stokes

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