John Stumbo Video Blog No. 12
July 12, 2014
John reflects on the collective privilege of preachers to stand before God's people and bring the Word of God as spokespersons of eternal truths.
Hey, team, I’m in Colorado Springs today at Harvest Alliance Church. Thanks to Pastor Kurt for letting us use this building for this shoot today. Since I talked to you last month, our grandson has gained a whole pound, so he’s over three pounds now. Praise God for that, making progress.
And I had a goal for 2014 to climb a 14,000-foot mountain. I had never been that high, and it seemed kind of poetic, a fourteener in 2014. So thanks to some friends at the National Office, they got me to the top and back to the bottom again safely, other than a pretty serious sunburn on the face. Who knew that you could sunburn the bottom side of your nose, but the sun reflecting off a recent snowfall kind of torched me. But it was a great experience, and I’m really grateful to God for the health that He’s given me that I could do that kind of thing.
Today’s theme is preaching. I want to tell you a story. I was at the National Office about a decade ago for some meetings and had to rush out a little bit early to get back to Salem Alliance, where I was the pastor, to preach for the weekend services. As I rushed out of the building, one of the Board members’ wives was in the lobby, and I said, “I gotta go preach.” She quickly quipped, “You get to.” Those were the last words that I heard as I ran out the door, jumped in my rental car, got back to the airport; and as I was on the flight home, those words kept ringing in my head. I had said, “I’ve gotta go preach,” and she said, “You get to.”
Well, I reflected on the privilege of what it is to stand before God’s people with the Word of God in my hand and to be one of His spokespersons for eternal truths. So it really is a privilege and an honor that I “get to” do this. It’s not just an obligatory burden that Sunday shows up every three days, it feels like for the preaching pastor, but no, it’s not just that I “got to,” but I “get to” do this.
What an honor, what a holy privilege. What a holy calling that we get to be those who stand before God’s people and the people that God is calling to Himself with eternal truths, with the message of Jesus, with the good news of the gospel. She was right: it’s not a just a “got to”—it’s a “get to.”
But then I was preparing for my message on that flight and thinking through the texts for the day and upcoming weekend. I had done some advance prep, but that was in that “I got to tie this down” kind of moment in my preparation. And as the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, the Spirit of God speaking through them once again burned in my heart, I shifted one more time from “got to” to “get to,” back to “got to”—not now in an obligatory burden kind of way but in an urgency kind of way. That I must; I was under compulsion.
There was something that had to be said that week, and it was supposed to be said through me, evidently, because the Spirit of God was speaking to my heart, and I was the assigned communicator for the weekend. My progress of that 24 hours went from “got to” (obligatory), “get to” (privilege), to “got to”—the holy calling that this must be spoken on this day).
So I want to be an advocate for preaching. You know what the Scripture says—2 Timothy 4—that we are to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”
You know the example of our Christ from Matthew 4 and other places where “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, healing every disease and sickness.” You know that He gained a reputation very early in His ministry for preaching with gracious words—Luke 4—and preaching with authority. You know that He went in to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day, He went into the synagogue, as was His custom, and He stood up to read from the prophet Isaiah. He reads those words that “the Spirit of the Lord is come upon me,” and He gives this powerful message that that Scripture has been fulfilled in His day.
Preaching. You know that it’s a biblical mandate for us. You also know that God has used it throughout Church history. The shaping and forming and protecting of the Church throughout our history, and the proclamation of the gospel, and the defending of the truth throughout history has largely been through preaching. Not exclusively; it’s not our only tool in our tool kit, but it’s a significant one, and I believe that it’s one that is under attack today.
The . . . You hear it in our phrases sometimes, right? “I don’t want to peach at you” or “I don’t want to sound preachy.” Now, I understand if what we’re saying is kind of a tone that we don’t want to communicate or an attitude that we don’t want to display from the pulpit; that I get, that I appreciate. A condescending power play, I appreciate that we want to protect ourselves from some forms of communication that has been used in the past and present. But the role as preacher, the task of preaching, I believe remains as significant as it has ever been throughout history and as vocal as it has ever been, as if that could change.
When my dad was a pastor 50 years ago, he was often referred to around town as “Preacher.” I don’t think that happens anymore that we’re known as Preacher. Now there’s many other great ways that we serve the Body of Christ, and not everybody that I’m speaking to today is called to be a public preacher. Counseling, chaplaincy, administration, worship—there are many, many different gifts and ways we get to serve beyond the preaching task, but I again, to be redundant, want to be an advocate for biblical preaching—whatever style, homiletic style you adopt, I’m going to leave that to you. I’m not going to defend one of those. But I am going to be defending the idea that as a Christian and Missionary Alliance preacher, we better be handling the Scriptures in a studious, serious, Spirit-filled manner. That our messages arise out of our times of listening to God with our Bibles open before us, studying, meditating on the eternal words given to us and then listening for what the Spirit’s message would be for this moment for our churches.
You might want to think of this as biblical poema preaching. I don’t even know if I’m saying that Greek word right, didn’t have a chance to verify, but I am referring to Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 10, that says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which he has prepared in advance for us to do.” We are God’s workmanship, His poema, His craftsmanship, His artistry. The word from which we get the word “poem,” this creative designer God has worked something in each believer’s heart that is a work of grace and of God for us to express the truth of God through our lives—good works prepared in advance for us to do—and some of us a portion of that good work is through this preaching task. This is what He made us to do, and the biblical preaching should come through our personality. I’m encouraging you, pastor, preacher, to be yourself in the pulpit. A Holy Spirit–filled form of yourself—not the arrogant and carnal form of yourself—the Holy Spirit–filled form of yourself, but to allow the Scripture to come through your personality, your style, your experience.
So, preacher, I’m asking us to be the kind of people who listen to God as we study the Word and allow that to be communicated through our own God-wired personalities. Listen to Jeremiah 23:
This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
they fill you with false hopes.
They speak from their own minds,
not from the mouth of the Lord.
They keep saying to those who despise me,
‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’
But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord
to see or to hear his word?
Who has listened and heard his word?
I did not send these prophets,
yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them,
yet they have prophesied.
But if they had stood in my council,
they would have proclaimed my words to my people
and would have turned them from their evil ways
and from their evil deeds. . . .
“Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’”
May we stand in the counsel of God and receive the word that He has for us, not just imitating somebody else, not plagiarizing words of somebody else. Yes, our thoughts are informed by books that we read and from other preachers we hear. Yes, but when we stand in that holy pulpit that we would declare the word that God has brought to us for this moment.
I want to give us two cautions about preaching: first is adrenalized preaching. For the first 20 years or so of my preaching ministry, I was not aware of it, but I was tapping into the adrenal system every time I stood up to preach. I don’t know if it was a masking of my insecurity or because I was more influenced by the NFL than I was by biblical preaching. But we don’t need to tap into the adrenal system to be an effective communicator of God’s Word. Besides, your Monday mornings will be way better if you don’t have an adrenal spike on Sunday.
Second caution—ADD preaching. Just because something comes to our mind doesn’t mean it needs to come out of our mouths. If there was ever a time when we needed Holy Spirit control of our tongue, it’s while we are in the pulpit. Please, guys, let’s take the advice of an African-American pastor that I heard recently who said, “Stand up to be seen; speak up to be heard; and shut up to be appreciated.”
The best books have had thousands of words edited out of them before they reached us. Poor books had all the words of the author left in. The same could be said of good sermons. Make sure that your message is not just a collection of random thoughts. Show some self-control, Spirit-filled self-control in the pulpit.
We are God’s spokespersons, studying the Scripture, listening to the Spirit’s voice, allowing that message to go into our very beings so when we stand in that holy pulpit, we know that, yes, we’ve got to do this. It’s our calling, our job. What a calling it is. Yes, we get to; this is a privilege. Wow! What an opportunity we have. But we’ve got to because the Word of God must be spoken, and it is to be spoken through you.