Who can forget the school cafeteria? Bland food, hairnet ladies – and those plastic trays! If your high school cafeteria experience was like mine, it wasn’t a matter of gourmet recipes and discriminating palates – it was a matter of being hungry enough to eat whatever they plopped on the tray. As I recall, there wasn’t a lot of choice of menu items. Eat the goulash or don’t.
I am sorry to make the comparison, but there may be a few churches and pastors who have modeled their ministry after the school cafeteria. Whatever do I mean?
We are aware of some preachers whose mantra could be, “I don’t care what you want or need, this is what I’m preaching!” Of course, effective preachers take their cues from the Holy Spirit. They preach the Word of God in an uncompromising way, regardless of the opinions of others. But there is something to be said about being in touch with the people to whom we preach and with whom we worship. A renewed sense of compassion, connection and care would do us preachers some good. While we must preach what God directs us to preach, there is nothing wrong with being aware of the needs of the people and presenting God’s Word as the solution.
I am not a fan of a watered down Gospel. We have witnessed great damage in our churches and culture as a result of “feel good preaching.” But pastors who are more determined to preach their sermons than they are to minister to their people are missing the point of preaching.
Spiritual hash is not very appetizing. Non-imaginative and stuffy spiritual pontification has never changed a life. Modern-day preachers must learn the art and discipline of exegeting a passage and expositing that truth into the practical lives of everyday people. Our job is to present the Bible in clear and meaningful ways so that the hearers of the Word can become doers of the Word. I believe that it is the responsibility of the preacher to offer the Bible in a relevant and purposeful way. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to open the minds of the hearers, but we are the spokespersons for God. This is a heavy responsibility.
We shudder to think that a person in need could attend a worship service and find no solution to their problem. While the Gospel is always the answer, some searchers may find some spiritual direction helpful. God help us to never turn away a hungry seeker.
My simple advice to preachers would be: Know to whom you preach. Understand their struggles. Be in touch with their personal lives. Study the Bible. Pray for the preacher and the listeners. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to passages that address the needs of the people. And preach passionately and compassionately what God lays on your hearts. I believe you will see lives changed.
I don’t want to be a cafeteria preacher that plops unappetizing spiritual food on the trays of people’s lives; I want to serve Gospel gourmet meals that satisfy the longings in people’s hearts.