By Jason Dees
As pastors, we need to continually ask what is shaping our preaching, and sadly as I have listened to sermons and talked to pastors and parishioners, I am convinced that much of today’s preaching is prompted more by cable news pundits or social media posts than it is by the Holy Spirit. I offer this as a warning to you who regularly listen to sermons, but more urgently, I offer this as a warning to you who regularly preach sermons. When your preaching is more about “they” and “them” and less about “we” and “us,” that is a sign that your sermon may be under the unction of your favorite talking head on cable news or social media and not under the unction of the Holy Spirit of God. When you are spending 3-4 hours a day consuming news media and 3-4 minutes a day in God’s word and prayer, that is a sign that you are more likely being led along by the spirit of this age and not by the Spirit of Christ. When you get very excited to read your favorite columnist or to listen to your favorite talk show but have no excitement for the milk and meat of God’s word, that is a sign that you are a slave to your belly and that you do not hunger and thirst to hear from God.
This is a serious matter. God has called and anointed us to care for his church and feed his church his eternal truth. God desires pastors in Georgia and in every place that know him to fear him, love his word, and have the confidence in the living God to speak his truth. We speak that truth not primarily to the watching world or “culture,” but as pastors, we are called to speak that truth to our people, to our church. Our sermons should be almost exclusively “we” and “us” sermons, not “they” and “them” sermons. Pastor, you are called to preach to your church, not to your culture.
No faithful preacher ever gets to preach to the “home crowd.” We are always preaching on behalf of a Holy God to unholy men and women. There is no such thing as a “home crowd” sermon if it is truly a sermon. If we are speaking as a prophet of God, we are always on the visiting team, preaching as a sinner who is hoping in God’s redeeming grace for fellow sinners in need of that same grace. If the common posture of your church members is to be praising themselves and patting one another on the back as they leave your services while they are quietly looking down at those “sinners” out there who believe in “all sorts of godless things,” then you have preached a false gospel. When leaving a gathering of Christian worship, the Christian’s only posture should be one of praise to Jesus for his amazing grace displayed in his gospel and with a grateful heart of obedience eager to join Jesus in his redeeming work.
People often ask me to preach more on the cultural issues of the day (them) that I know our members generally agree on; what they don’t ask me to preach on enough are the actual sins that our congregation is dealing with (us). God knows that we live in a state that has been given over to secularism and idol worship. I fear that too many of our churches are given over to the same things only with a Bible verse pasted on here or there. What God desires is a pure church, a holy people distinct from the world, while having a present and compassionate posture towards the world that God desires to save.
As a brother in Christ and a co-laborer in the ministry, please hear me out. We, even as pastors, are first and foremost disciples. We maintain a capacity to be shaped and discipled by the influencers of this world. I fear that many of us are more attuned to the voice of punditry and news outlets than we are to the voice of Christ our Lord. If your diet of God’s word is a tenth of your diet of other media, then how could this not be true? And how are you going to explain this on the day when you stand before God to give an account for your flock?
So, turn it off, repent, look to God and to his word. Preach boldly, not as a cultural commentator but as a pastor to your flock, and be faithful. And then, as Hebrews 13:17 tells us when we stand before God and give an account for the souls that he has called us to shepherd, we will be able to hear those good words, “well done.” Let’s continue to stir one another along in faith, keeping watch of our souls, doctrine, and preaching influences until we do.
Jason Dees is pastor of Christ Covenant in Atlanta, one of the fastest growing churches in America.