Jan 23, 2010

We Live in a Different World

Paul writes, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11). When I was a child there was a general respect for all things church. Even the most heathen—many of my Dad’s friends, for example—were people who at least feigned respect for pastors and church folks. I am not naive enough to think that preachers like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker (along with their local minions and impersonators) did not add fuel to the disrespect fire—no doubt they did. But for me, I remember the day the gloves came off and I realized what people like me were up against.

When I was a graduate student at the University of Texas I attended many classes—that was part of the education drill. One afternoon a particularly irritating student stated an opinion that not only was objectionable to me personally and the rest of the class, but he had avowed factual errors in presenting his case. Naturally, as a seeker of truth, I could not sit idly by and let his statements go unchallenged, so I answered his assertions point by point. I got carried away by my own indignation and pretty well demolished the young man and his opinions in a quite comprehensive way.

At the conclusion of my harangue, the room was silent for some time; even the professor had nothing to say. Finally, perhaps as a way to break the tension, one of the other students said, “Say, aren’t you some kind of a preacher?” Everyone laughed loudly and for a long time. The student’s quip discounted everything I had said, whether or not it had merit as truth. It was as if because I was a preacher that I could not really have anything worthwhile for a secular class in the university. It is against this low estate of the preaching office that many preachers must now fight in order to get a hearing.

And yet people need to hear a word of hope and sometimes a word of challenge—it is into this circumstance people like your pastors try to step. Sometimes we succeed and at times perhaps we do not. But God originally built Christ’s church on preaching and it is has been the best way we have to deliver the gospel message to the world for the last 21 centuries or so.

As Paul asked rhetorically, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:14, 15, 17).

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