The Foolishness of Preaching
Preaching in Tanzania!
Do you feel like you’re not quite in sync with the world? Perhaps it’s just me but I feel like I’m marching to a different beat then the rest of the world. Things just aren’t quite right. Maybe it’s Covid-19 that’s causing us to feel like we are walking on a fine line. Maybe it’s the division within the country. It could be any number of things but the truth of the matter is that the world feels a bit more tilted than ever before and it’s throwing everything off balance.
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know I am a minister as well as a therapist. In February of this year, I left the local church and went full-time into private practice. Of course, at that time I had no idea what 2020 would bring to our lives. Due to the isolation, uncertainty, fear, and seeming hopelessness all around us, I have a very busy practice. I enjoy what I do and believe that for the most part I am helping people. For that, I am so very grateful to God for making the doors open for First Step Counseling.
Unfortunately, even with the success of the business and the love I have for each of my clients, I feel very empty inside.
Well, maybe empty isn’t the right word. Empty implies nothing. In actuality, I feel so much that it’s overwhelming. I fluctuate between sadness, anger, frustration, determination, loneliness, isolation. If it’s a feeling, I’ve likely felt it in the past nine months. Regardless of which emotion I’m experiencing there is always one constant — lost.
Some may ask, “How can you be lost if you have true faith?” It’s a fair question. I used to believe the same thing. But I have discovered that God doesn’t shy away from doubt or confusion. In fact, the Bible is full of people with doubts. Look at the disciples. They spent three years following Jesus, being taught by him, sharing meals with him, and being challenged by him. And still, he washed their feet even when they questioned. John the Baptist encountered the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb. He heard the very voice of God Almighty proclaim Jesus as His son upon his baptism. And still, he asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
I am not asking if Jesus is the one. I know he is. My feelings of being lost, of doubt, of uncertainty stem from not knowing where I’m supposed to be.
“The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel.” If this is true (and I believe it is), all of the money in the world isn’t an earned living if I haven’t been earning my living by the very gospel itself. Now, I am using all I can within my therapy sessions with clients to point people to Jesus Christ and share the Kingdom of God. But it’s not enough. Jesus died for me. My part is quite simple. Serve as I’ve been called to serve.
“For it would be better for me to die than for anyone to deprive me of my boast! For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because I am compelled to preach—and woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:15-16)
Did you happen to catch what Paul said here? He says that he had a need to preach the gospel. He is saying, “I’ve got to preach this. And if I don’t, I’d just as well give up.” His believed that his responsibility to preach the gospel was so great that his next breath depended upon it.
You see, a true minister of God feels a compulsion to preach the gospel. On the flipside, he or she feels a certain doom if they do not. He or she feels as though, if they tried anything else, it would be useless. And that is where the emptiness comes from that is not being filled because the ministry of Jesus Christ is a calling. To a true minister of God, it is not just a job, but a vocation that compels you forward because the truth must be preached. Quite frankly, the knowledge of the scriptures simply cannot be kept to one’s self. Withholding the Truth of God’s way is absolutely useless to anybody else; it cannot help anybody take even one step along the road to the Kingdom of God. This is why God gives ministers mouths to speak and passion to go forth.
Paul calls it “the foolishness of preaching”, but God accomplishes a great deal through it. The serious, devoted servant of Jesus Christ must do it. They just must! That’s how you know when a person walks away from ministry of their own doing, it is likely they were never really called by God. Unless God has released them from their calling, their compulsion never ends. And if the servant has not preached the truth in a long while, a “pressure” builds up after a time, and if it is not released, it explodes. The truth must be passed on because a compulsion from God Himself drives a true minister to speak the truth.
And that is where I find myself, full of pressure of the Truth that I know and cannot share. I feel as if I’m getting ready to explode. I am attending a great church full of God-fearing people and Biblically sound teachings. And yet, I can’t call it home. And I WANT to! I just know it’s not where I’m supposed to be and I am a bit angry about that. Why can’t I just serve there? Why can’t I find rest in the seats within the sanctuary? Why? Because God didn’t call me to sit on the sidelines, keeping the Truth to myself.
Unfortunately, Satan really did a number on me. I have lost some of my courage and have lost most of my friends. After the UMC cancelled me this year, I shook my fist at God several times. It wasn’t fair. I was doing what He called me to do. I was standing up to the lies within the world. I was ensuring that the words I shared from the pulpit were God’s words. And lives were being changed because of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
Y’all, I have genuinely tried to let go of the pain that the UMC has caused me and my family. It’s very hard, though. I see the way Satan is garnering more and more hold within the American churches. I see sins being glorified while Truth is erased. I grieve for the ones in the pews blindly following the false prophets. My heart breaks for the church folks who think Jesus’s entire reason for coming was to love … but without consequences. And I cry for those who genuinely feel led to serve but are pushed into serving the social justice agenda rather than the growing the Kingdom of God.
A couple of Sundays ago when we left church, I fought back tears. It was such a great sermon and the worship was deeply moving. But I felt like I was on the outside looking in, pushing God further away. Shame, guilt, sadness, and… anger just came over me. “I have failed you, God, because I have not used the spiritual gifts you have given me.” And the response… silence.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.” (John 15:16)
So, here I am, asking God what is next. Where am I supposed to go? Is it across town or around the world? Where is my courage, God? How do I garner the strength I found in you when I feel so weak? How do I erase the memories of the past year so that I can trust your people with my heart once again?
I have no idea what I’m supposed to do but I am certain that doing nothing is not the answer. I pray that this profound sense of emptiness … of feeling lost … will be replaced with the fruit of the spirit. For only then will I know that I am all God wants me to be and that the fruit he produces through me will truly be born again.