I recently had a conversation with a friend about a message preached at the faith fellowship I attend. My friend’s comment was that he was feeling beat up by the sermon and that his son even asked why the preacher was mad. He then contrasted this with another sermon he had recently heard that was much less confrontational. He thoroughly enjoyed the latter message but ended up walking out on the former. As I reflected on our conversation, I could not help but be reminded of 2 Timothy 4:2-4 where it states that people will seek teaching that will soothe their ears.
Both of the sermons I mentioned above contained sound teaching from the Word of God. The second was instructional, expounding on the passage of Scripture being studied. I think this type of preaching is essential and foundational. At the same time, if we are not applying what we learn to our lives, then we also need to hear messages such as the first one I mentioned, the “in your face” kind of preaching that will stir us awake. Too often we become content to hear a good speaker week after week tell us things we already know, and that allows us to comfortably assume we are living a good and proper Christian life. The danger is that if we are never challenged we can easily become lulled to sleep, having our ears soothed but our eyes blinded to the Kingdom work that waits to be done.
I don’t fault my friend for preferring one type of preaching over another. My point is that unless we are seeing change in our life from the messages we hear, we are simply wasting our time. If going to church means simply checking off a box and slipping in and out quietly without being noticed, then we have badly missed what was intended for us as a body of believers. The purpose of gathering together and listening to sermons is so that we might learn how to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, internalize those truths into our lives, and together with other believers scatter across our communities loving others and sharing the truth we have learned. If we’re not doing those things, then I think there is definitely a place for a leader to confront our lackadaisical faith and challenge us to move forward with the mission of Christ.
With every breath, our time on this planet grows shorter and we are faced with the reality that we have a window of opportunity that is quickly closing. If we don’t share the love of Christ today, we may not have another chance tomorrow. None of us has any guarantee of even another minute of life. We do not have the luxury of waiting until later to apply the things we have learned and to begin living a life that is fully devoted to Jesus Christ. If you don’t feel the urgency of learning, living and loving in the reflection of our Savior then I submit that you are not living a life that is aligned with His will. We do not have the option of being passive; we have been commanded to go, to serve and to love.
We must never be content to simply hear a message and never live out the truths we learn. If we aren’t willing to put into action the things we are learning, if we are content to simply have our ears tickled by endless words, we are being deceived and rendered ineffective by Satan. God has called each of us to glorify Him and to make disciples of all believers. Sitting passively in a church building isn’t going to get it done and was never what God intended. We must continually seek out solid doctrine that pushes us to go out into the world and reflect the love of Christ; doing is far less comfortable than simply hearing. Don’t get caught in the trap of living passively for Christ. Be bold and live your faith out loud in a manner that reflects and glorifies our Creator.