For those of us who preach and teach, one of the most helpful things I have learned is that people pick up what we’re excited about. And it’s not necessarily what we think we’re preaching and teaching. If someone sits under your ministry for a sustained period of weeks and months they will be able to tell you what you get excited about. In turn they will in all likelihood get excited about it too. Your priorities will become the church’s priorities over time. I don’t think this applies just in spiritual work, it’s the same in any teaching context.
For the preacher, this has both a positive and a negative outcome. Positively, it is reassuring for those of us who aren’t the gifted and great. We might never make it on to the conference circuit or write scholarly articles. Yet because we love Christ and his gospel, that will come across. All of us preachers should love that Lloyd Jones quote –
‘I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him.’
If we are excited about God, if we are excited about the Lord Jesus, that will shine through our preaching.
The other side of the coin is a warning. If we get excited by the periphery of the Christian faith, the good but not essential, the danger is that our people will have that same excitement over the periphery. It can even be important things like Church government, the sacraments, the melodic line, the interpretation of scripture. If our primary excitement isn’t for the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel, that will transfer to the people God has entrusted to our care. We’ve all seen churches just subtly begin to major on things that are not at the heart of the Christian faith. It’s dangerously subtle.
I think there’s a need for periodic self analysis, to be able to see where we’re slightly going off kilter and re-align ourselves with the priorities of the bible.
I’m not arguing just preach ‘the simple gospel’. We must teach the whole counsel of God, seeking to instruct people in all the things Jesus taught us. The Reformed Faith is for all of life and we must seek to bring the truth of God’s word to bear on every area. But we need to remember it’s what gets us excited that they will remember.