Because we are broken individuals, the church today is broken as well. That’s why I call my blog the Broken Church. It’s not a put down; it’s a signpost of hope. The more we realize our brokeness and our sin, the more God’s grace can be at work in our midst. God likes to take that which is broken and fix it.
I love the church. It has been used in extremely powerful ways in my life over the years. At the same time, I have seen very sad things in the church. Scripture makes clear it is God’s main way to carry out his purposes on earth. Are we as the church up to the task? How can we be more effective? I write to remind and to challenge us to be all we can be.
When I was in seminary, I heard a funny story about one of my theology professors. One day he was lecturing on a very intellectual subject. He wasn’t the most exciting of lecturers, but this one day, he was especially boring! It didn’t help that he had a European accent that was hard to understand. By the end almost every head was down on their desk. Finally the bell rang ending the class. Suddenly before anyone could exit, he perked up and said “You will have to excuse me for my lecture this morning, as I was taking a little snooze.” He was lecturing in his sleep!
I don’t think that has happened to me while I was preaching, but I have certainly had my share of other heads nodding in sleep. Its hard not to. It’s been a busy week and we are tired and when all we are doing is sitting there, the eyelids get heavy and soon our head goes down. I have done the same thing many, many times in the pews.
But it doesn’t have to be so. If we understand what preaching is, it may change how we listen.
Most times we think of a sermon as a place where the preacher pours information into our brains and we are to simply take it in. We think of it as one way like a television show, we sit and watch, then walk away done. But a sermon is far more than that – its communication, two-way communication!
In Acts 17:11, we see the Bereans had that very different view of preaching, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” You see they were interacting with it, checking the scriptures and even more receiving it eagerly. They were, once they were convinced it was true, applying it to their lives and being changed by it. They were actively engaging it.
Now granted back in the Apostle Paul’s day, the style of preaching was more interactive, people asking questions and shouting out what they thought. Our western cultural style is more reserved. Usually it is just the preacher talking, but there are many other ways of interacting and communicating back to the speaker. Certainly body language says a lot, leaning forward shows interest and a desire to follow along. A puzzled look on the face or a nod of agreement lets the preacher know how he’s coming across. Having a Bible out, thumbing through the pages or taking notes in the bulletin can really communicate a Berean attitude.
Usually it’s considered impolite to interrupt the message with feedback, but the communication doesn’t have to stop with the concluding prayer. There’s always the word at the door as you are heading out or stopping some other time to express what you thought. A thank-you is nice, but I especially am encouraged when people say how the message affected them, even if they disagree. Though we shouldn’t go overboard with a sermon critique, I find the feedback helpful and I can certainly learn some things, too.
Of course the biggest way is to let the message impact your life. A demonstration like that speaks volumes. So consciously applying it in a planned way is a key step. Even if you have been a believer for years, and maybe you’ve heard most every sermon out there, isn’t there still some growth needed in your sanctification? Make the change and tell people, especially the preacher. That helps for full communication.
And that’s one of the goals on a Sunday morning, full, two-way communication of God’s truth.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph. 6:10-12
This scripture makes it very clear that Satan is evil, scheming and incredibly powerful and we need spiritual armor to stand against him. So here is a way to use the armor of God as a guide for your prayer time. Use it once a day or once a month to examine your life before the Lord so you aren’t susceptible to the enemy’s attacks.Here are the pieces of the armor and some questions to prayerfully ask yourself for each one:
Belt of Truth
What lies from Satan about myself, others, the world around me, or circumstances am I believing? Am I not telling the truth in certain areas about certain things; where I am slanting the truth?
Breastplate of Righteousness
Do I realize how God sees Christ’s righteousness instead of my sin? How is my sense of self-worth right now? What sins do I need to confess? Is there unnecessary guilt on my heart right now?
Shoes Fitted with Readiness
Am I ready to share the gospel at any time with those who should ask? Of people I know whom should I pray for to know the Lord? Who should I go to with the gospel message?
Gospel of Peace
What am I stressed about? What do my thoughts reveal I am worried or fearful about? Am I regretful about things that have happened in the past? Am I anxious about the future to come?
Shield of Faith
What are the arrows of temptation ahead today? Knowing my weak points, where would Satan tend to strike? What natural desires would he start with?
Helmet of Salvation
What doubts about God and his Word attack my mind? What do I doubt God will do for me? What questions of the faith haunt me?
Sword of the Spirit
What promises of God do I need to hold onto for any of the above? What scripture should I be reading and/or studying?
***Remember to pray in His Name (He’s our power of attorney), in the power of His Blood (we can’t be touched because of it), and under the cross (he’s triumphant there for us).