Help pastors for a minute regarding sermons and preaching. Just talk to us about why you believe in preaching. It seems like a lot of people just don’t even believe in it. They don’t have a lot of confidence in it. They want to do other stuff. They want to do something in this church meeting that will get people there or whatever. And you seem to be a preacher who’s at home with the idea. You seem to think it’s a good idea. So why do you think it’s a good idea? And then just say something about what helps you be a preacher. It could be sermon preparation or whatever. Take the last few minutes to help pastors.
I think there are few things top down that the Holy Spirit engages in, works in, stirs in, and does such a diversity of things in than the proclaimed word. And I’ve poked my head into “let’s worship for an hour and a half and see what happens.” I did a little thing on letting people know what I believe about charismatics. I’ve been in the room where everybody is laying on the floor but me and the preacher are staring at each other. I’ve been in the room where they’re like, “Hey, there’s gold dust.” And I’m like, “Okay, I don’t see any gold dust. I’m sorry.” I’ve been in the, “Hey, let’s do small group, communal life together.” I’ve been in that.
And then I’ve been in the room where the proclamation of the word goes out and penetrates a man off-topic, with a different background, and different belief set than the on-topic guy with a completely different background, a completely different life makeup. And both of them are broken by the Holy Spirit and the spoken word and the proclaimed word. So I’m a believer in preaching.
Yeah, I am too. And I keep wrestling with how to discern and say why preaching, as a communication form with one man, who for 30 to 60 minutes is speaking to a group of people over a text, seems to be biblically and experientially designed by God as a form till Jesus comes.
Sure. And it’s always been. God doesn’t go to Pharaoh and say, “Let my people go.” He comes to Moses and says, “You’re going to be a conduit through which my power flows. Go.” And that goes on to the prophets. And it’s just, once again, how he designed it to be.
Yeah. And it involves such dangers, right? Because I heard you say just an hour ago that when you speculated that you weren’t going to do video in your second campus, it was because you didn’t want a cult of personality, and that’s what it seems to imply. A friend of yours laughed as though you weren’t already a cult of personality, meaning the spectacular growth of this church built around faith-filled, Bible-saturated, Spirit-anointed preaching is flowing through you. So why isn’t that a cult of personality?
Well, I think it’s a cult of personality if I embrace it and own it. It’s not a cult of personality if I continually confess that I don’t understand it and the author is not me. So I think that’s where men have gone astray. They go astray when they have touched something that is not theirs and have owned something that is not theirs. Our constant prayer — and I’m saying this knowing that a bulk of our people watch it — has been to do this in such a way that we can’t own it or even write about it, whether it’s giving us a building like he gave us a building, or whether it’s doing it in such a way that it doesn’t come down to good leadership and it doesn’t come down to vision casting perfectly. I guess the back end of that is people are going to do what people are going to do. And I’ve tried to figure out how to handle this for years now and I can’t diffuse it.
**What I would say my contribution to that issue is, if the attraction to come to your church is your form — that is, dress, a handsome, articulate, forceful teacher, good music, good stories — and you know that and you start to work that, that’s wicked. It could be your looks, your personality, the church building, the music, etc. The Whitefield thing is all a part of it. You can’t not be you. And yet you say, “I’m going to do one thing here. I’m going to speak the truth and try to be helpful to people’s souls.” Then my guess is that over time the reason they’re going to come is because they get help.
I like to listen to you. And the reason I like to listen to you is I come away saying, “That was helpful.” What you did with 1 Timothy 4:1–16 was like that. You were saying, “There are people who are going to leave the faith up here, but you preach this way and you will save yourself and your hearers. And here’s six ways to do it. And I’m just going to unpack each of those six.” I’m saying, that’s clear, interesting, helpful, courageous, and I’m being affected. Now if I’m going to come back next Sunday, probably, am I into a cult of personality there? I just want to be helped. I want to get that kind of help.
I think the danger then is, is that what you’re working on? Is it, “I want to be helpful. I want to be faithful to this word in such a way and speak it in such a way that I help people’s faith and hope and purity and holiness”? or is it, “I really want them. They’re going to come at any cost. I’m going play this game, this salesmanship game”?**
Yeah. I think in the end that finds itself out. In the end, I think you’re eventually going to look really silly. I think you’re going to be a 60-year-old man dressing like a 20-year-old man. I think it eventually finds you out and then you’re eventually the clown, not the star of the show anymore. So time will tell.
Or your heart goes so empty, you take the secretary to Florida.
Sure, absolutely. Or you take the money to Florida. One of the two.
**We have a few minutes left. What should we say to pastors? Anything in this conference, in your recent experience, or anything that you see coming? What should we do with these last two minutes that would be Christ exalting? We want them to love Jesus more than they love you and me and stuff and church growth. What can we say?
I think the thing that’s always on my heart for pastors, because of the sheer bombardment of information and innovation is to play your part well. John Piper has a part in what God’s doing, and Matt Chandler and Mark Dever have a part to play. I didn’t choose my part. I didn’t force my part. I’m just trying to, as best I can, by the grace and mercy of Christ today, be all that he’s asked me to be and do today. And then I’m going to go to bed tonight and I’m going to get up tomorrow, and if tomorrow The Village is 37 people, then I’m going to be faithful. I’m going to play my part well, because I don’t know what my part is. He has to do that. He has to decide that. He has to work that. I’m just going to play my part well. And I think if you don’t get your head around that, I don’t know how you navigate all of this.
Right. So you’re 34 and I’m 63, so I’m just going to underline what you said and we’ll be done. I pray, I suppose as often as any prayer concerning ministry, “Keep me faithful,” because I think staying at what you’re doing and doing it biblically and with all your might, as you can do it over time, that pays. If you’re looking for the flash in the pan, you’ll cave. You’ll go to a prayer meeting where there are 13 people, or you’ll go and the thing holds 2,700 people and there will be 150 there and you’ll be so discouraged that you’ll bail.
So just be faithful. Be faithful and pray for this guy that he stays faithful and I’ve got maybe a year or two or 10 left. Pray for us. We love you, whoever you are, very much.