March 10, 2020
I've had the pleasure of preaching in a church for little over twenty years. I consider it to be one of the most difficult tasks of a pastor, while at the same time one of the most rewarding.
I've stood before small groups and large crowds, but regardless of size I've noticed some common threads that exist in every audience, whether they're seasoned believers or all-out skeptics.
There are many good resources on how to give a dynamic talk and hold an audience captive, but to acknowledge the potential life issues that are already consuming the thoughts of your audience can become a touchpoint for your message.
Regardless of the topic, shaping your message acknowledging where people are will give your presentation an added sense of value for those who hear it. Given the diversity and size of congregations I've preached to, I've found they've all shared in one way or another, these common struggles.
1. People living with suffering
In every audience is someone who is grieving. Loss and suffering come in many different guises and no one is impervious to its reach. The need for people to feel a sense of normalcy in their situation or even to be comforted during a difficult season is balm to their soul. Scripture is replete with affirmations of comfort during the most difficult moments of life.
2. People living with a lie
Many live with a distorted sense of who they are. Their identity has either been influenced by their past or by struggles in the present. They need to be reminded of their intrinsic value to God and that he has a plan and purpose for them far beyond what others say. In a culture of labels and stereotypes, God's message is a refreshing reminder of being created for a greater purpose.
3. People living with doubt
Regardless of how strong our faith appears, we all have moments of doubt. Especially in a culture that not only devalues faith, but ridicules it. The encouragement that comes when we can communicate a confidence in what we believe regardless of our doubts, helps to temper the onslaught of negativity we are awash in. As Christians we hold the most defensible, and objectively verifiable faith, period.
4. People living with stress
Stress seems to now be a by-product of simply breathing. Can't think of many people who aren't living with some measure of stress. We are being pulled in every direction imaginable while at the same time connected twenty-four seven. We are always on without any real time to pause. The next comment may seem trite, but I feel its valid.
The thirty or so minutes people spend listening to your message may be the most concentrated down time they've had all week. Why not deliver a message that feeds their soul while at the same time allows them to forget whatever stress holds them captive.
5. People living with hopelessness
I'm troubled by the number of people for whom life is nothing more than a daily treadmill. Lots of activity but no progress. Nothing really changes and nothing ever gets better. They see little prospect of a better present let alone a better future. In fact, as time progresses things deteriorate, making the treadmill more difficult to manage. Is it any wonder many have lost their sense of hope?
Couple this with the perception of a culture that has really nothing to offer and is it any wonder the dark clouds appear to never part. Jesus presented an abundant life that not only dissipates the clouds but destroys them altogether.
6. People living with no sense of purpose
How many are living for the weekend or the next paycheque? For some, their greatest sense of purpose is counting the days between iPhone releases. There is so many pursuits vying for our time it is little wonder that many struggle with a sense of higher calling. Some diversions are okay, some even necessary, but when entire lives are adrift, people miss God's deeper intention for life.
As preachers, we have an amazing opportunity to speak the life-giving words of Scripture. Words filled with hope, comfort, forgiveness, love, and redemption. I personally feel that there is no other institution on the planet that can speak transformational truth to the common issues many people are facing today.
March 12, 2020
Thank you Pastor Jon for this message which helps us understand a preacher’s position before their audience and the mindfulness with which sermons should be prepared.
I feel particularly provoked by the point # 3 ‘People living with doubt’ which speaks about communicating confidence to counter attack doubt. This is a topic that I have brought to God in prayer a few times because I was so disappointed when hearing one of your recent sermons. I know now that God is giving the opportunity to share it with you and will obey to His leading. I have waited and believe He is granting me the time to speak.
The day you spoke of this very topic of doubt, I left the service very disappointed and sad because you said “it is okay to doubt”. I felt a burning inside and upset and took it to my Lord. Pastor Jon, I did understand what you meant, and received the gentleness and sympathetic nature of your message. However, your statement that it is okay to doubt is a message that will feed more doubt and weaken the very faith God has given us because God’s Word clearly commands us not to doubt. God tells us that we should not expect to receive anything we ask for if we doubt. Then, how could my faith be fortified with such a message? No. It is not okay to doubt. This type of message will certainly open doors to the powers of darkness to debilitate the faith that God has already given us, and will cause more damage to those among us whose faith is weaker or are being oppressed. I consider it is normal for a believer not to understand certain things and have the ‘why’ type of questions because they are beyond our comprehension and some are secrets that only belong to God to know as He says in His Word. Yes, it is normal that these things come to mind, BUT it is not okay to doubt. It is precisely our faith what stands between those questions and our trust in God. It is precisely faith what dispels doubt and helps us be conquerors in Christ. It is faith what allows us not to fall as preys in Satan’s territory (Doubt is one of his dens).
Communicating a message that says it is okay to doubt will not nurture the seed of faith planted in our hearts; By the contrary, doubt will suffocate our faith. Only faith feeds faith and fortifies it. Doubt was the very seed that Satan used to weaken Eve’s faith and trust in God and pulled her away from God and with her doubt she took with her the closest one- Adam. The same way we, if not careful with the messages, can be pulled away and others alongside. Like a virus that spread even without knowing we have it, it is doubt when is in our hearts.
Pastor Jon, it is my desire that you receive my comments for good. Please do not take it as criticism because my heart is for God and His people – His Church. I speak this way because I am against anything that attempts to debilitate us. I pray for all of us to be full of the Spirit and full of faith. I don’t want any believer to try to appease their minds with such a seemingly comforter like doubt; Faith, as little as a mustard seed, must be our comforter on which our mind should rest for the now unanswerable questions. And surely God will approve of it and reward us all because “without faith it is impossible to please Him.”
In the love of my Lord Jesus,
March 11, 2020
You hit the nail on the head!! Thanks Jon
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May 13, 2020
April 29, 2020
There's nothing like a pandemic to bring out the best and the worst in people. I can't say I'm surprised, these things have a way of showing people's true colours and where their confidence, or can I say, suspicions, lie.
What is disheartening is what I'm seeing and hearing from those who claim to be followers of Jesus, Worse yet, are those who hold leadership platforms who are using them in ways that is, at least in my mind, not only disheartening, but downright embarrassing.
April 16, 2020
This is my newest grandson, Noah. I already have scads of pictures of him even though he just turned two months old, but this one is my favourite.
For a time I couldn't figure out why it rose to the top, but after one gruelling day of trying to manage life in the midst of a pandemic it suddenly hit me.