By. Ajith Fernando
The following article was taken from PreachingToday.com & Christianity Today website
We represent a great God who is over all and whose majesty is beyond all comparison. The greatest tragedy on earth is that people do not honor this great God. Our great goal in life is to bring honor to God. And we preachers and teachers have the opportunity of doing that when we preach and teach. When people come to any meeting under the name of God, they should leave with the sense that God is great. Therefore, our preaching, our worship-leading, our singing, our teaching, or whatever else we do in the name of God should always leave people with the impression that God is great.
I experienced this as a youth every Sunday as I sat under the ministry of the Rev. George Good. We participated in glorious services each Sunday, and Sunday became my favorite day of the week. I realized that the ministry was a glorious call and it thrilled me just to think that God may have called me, a shy youth who thought he would not amount to anything, to be a minister of the glorious gospel. I was fired by an ambition to do what I can to reflect the glory and majesty of God.
What if we preach an unprepared sermon that puts people to sleep or leaves them with no sense of the greatness of God? What if they leave a Christian meeting impressed by the lack of preparation and excellence in the program? I think that is, in ecclesiastical life, a crime akin to what murder is in social life. It has brought dishonor to God who is great and majestic—and that is the greatest tragedy that could happen on earth. It would be better for us to die than to be responsible for doing that!
And I think death is what we may be called to endure! If we are so busy as to find little time to prepare, then we may have to lose some sleep, in order to prepare a good sermon that will feed the people and bring honor to God.
Of course, there are few things as refreshing in life than preparing for public ministry, especially when that ministry involves time spent in the Word (out of which all ministry springs). During those times with the Word, God feeds us and gives us the thrill of discovering eternal truths and their applications to daily life. As with all forms of dying in Christianity, when we “die” in order to prepare for public ministry, we end up finding new and exciting experiences of life.
I think many Christians today are addicted to mediocrity. I have been to worship services where I have seen the preacher or leader choose his hymns five or ten minutes before the service starts! Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, how could such an abomination take place in the house of God? There is a symphony in worship that makes it flow and pulsate with energy and rhythm so that the soul’s desire to worship God is caught up in meaningful acts of worship. Can you prepare a symphony in ten minutes?
Just look at the great detail that the Old Testament goes into detailing the order of worship, the preparation for worship, the selection and training of those who take a role in the leading of worship. It goes on and on, chapter after chapter, giving details relating to worship. Why? Because worship reflects the glory of God, and therefore it must be done well. Its quality must reflect the greatness of God.
If God’s Word looks at preparation for worship as something so important, how dare we take it to be anything less than a matter of life and death? The great seventeenth century preacher Richard Baxter (1615-1691) was a sickly man. He is reputed to have said, “I will preach as if I’ll never preach again: as a dying man to dying men.” And many other preachers have taken that into their lives as an important theme. Some have had those words framed and hung in the vestry of their churches. Every time we represent God in public it is a matter of life and death. We are doing a great, great work.
We must always seek to reflect his glory. But when we represent him in public this becomes all the more serious, for we stand as official representatives of the King of kings and Lord of lords before a gathering of people. May the Lord release us from our addiction to mediocrity and cause us to be ignited with a passion for his glory that causes us to prepare well whatever the cost. If we are going to preach or teach, then we must fashion our schedule in order to give us time to prepare.
Let me just add one more point. We must work as hard as we can. But God in his wisdom may permit something to go wrong while we are up before the public. We may make a silly mistake like a slip of the tongue which makes everyone laugh. A disturbance may make it difficult for us to be heard. Another person may make a huge mistake that reflects badly on us because we are the ones before the public. The public address system may suddenly make a huge noise. I have learned to take these as disciplines that the Lord allows us to endure…
Woe to us, if we represent God as people addicted to mediocrity. Our God is too great to be thus dishonored. It would be better for us to die than to do that.
Ajith Fernando is the Teaching Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka and author of Reclaiming Love (Zondervan).
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