Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Do We Really Expect Anything to Happen in Our Preaching?

This whole discussion of invitation was brought home to me today when I read a quote from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' classic Preachers and Preaching:

"Seek Him always. But go beyond seeking Him; expect Him. Do you expect anything to happen when you get up to preach in a pulpit? Or do you just say to yourself, “Well, I have prepared my address, I am going to give them the address; some of them will appreciate it and some will not?” Are you expecting it to be the turning point in someone’s life? That is what preaching is mean to do….Seek this power, yearn for this power; and when the power comes, yield to Him."(p. 325)

It could be that my sloppiness or at least lack of attention to invitations is because, too often I am afraid, I don't really believe that God is going to do anything in people's lives as a result of preaching. Without giving it much thought, I see it as improving their morality, increasing their knowledge, giving them tools for daily living, improving their relational skills, improving their ability to read and understand God's Word, to pray, to serve. But change?

My first reaction is that I have seen too much hypocrisy and duplicity in the church to believe that people really change. I know my own difficulties and struggles with changing. You work with someone, believe there has been divine change and then they fall back into old patterns and behaviors. Too often I have seen people "improved" but not changed.

And yet that is my first reaction. My second reaction is that you get what you expect. If I don't expect change to come as a result of preaching, then change will usually not come (God can override my own expectations at any time). And so I am challenged to increase my faith.

My third reaction is that this is one more manifestation of my own suspicion of the motives of people...something I have been struggling with for years, but acutely in the last 12 months. The old definition of a cynic is "an idealist with life-experience." And that is too often how I have seen things. But when you expect the worst of people...guess what you get? When you expect the best...hopefully at least some of the time you will get better or best.

Thank you Dr. Lloyd-Jones: "Seek this power, yearn for this power; and when the power comes, yield to Him."

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