Feeds:
Posts
Comments

That’s exactly the kind of title that makes you stop scrolling, isn’t it? What if I said this blog is about preaching? How does that make you feel? If you are honest you might be a bit disappointed. You might even feel cheated because that’s not what you always associate preaching with. You wanted to hear about the secret behind public speaking and moving crowds. How to become the Luther King of our generation. To move crowds and influence people. Well, I want to make a case that preaching can do that and much more when it’s faithfully done. You can then apply the same idea as a Christian influencer whether in blogging or Tiktok.

I want to begin by saying that no speaker sets out wanting to be boring. They may have struggled in preparation if they did any of it. They may have wrestled with the text and question of relevance in their study. But no one wants to imagine theirs will be a boring message with little impact on the audience. I doubt any of us sets out to fail in persuading people.

We want the Truth but we also want it to move our audience. But how do you move people while being faithful in your preaching?

We want to move people with the Truth. We want them cut to the heart and ask, how can we be saved? We want to spur people to be excited to live for God and his mission? We want to warn them of coming judgement in a way that they feel compelled. If we are honest we admire preachers who move crowds even when we might take issue with their methods. And no one comes to a Sunday morning ready for a boring sermon. We want the Truth but we also want it to move our audience. But how do you move people while being faithful in your preaching?

Ask Why it Matters
You cannot be a good speaker if you don’t believe in your message. Likewise, you won’t make a faithful and relevant preacher if you don’t believe in the text at hand. Before you can preach it to others you need to preach it to yourself. And here I don’t mean give yourself a theological or doctrinal lesson. I mean preach it to yourself brother! Sit and ask what it’s saying, how it’s saying it and why that’s relevant. Have your Eureka moment not by discovering the Greek wording of it but by seeing just how relevant and practical it is to our faith and everyday life. And trust me it’s relevant.

Great preaching rests on showing us why the text matters and the secret is going back in time.

You see the beauty of expository preaching is that you have your work already done for you. Every passage we teach is actually a repeat sermon. There was a first audience who heard and applied that sermon. They were moved by it back then. This means all we need is to go back and ask why it mattered to them so it matters to us. Great preaching rests on showing us why the text matters and the secret is going back in time. But be careful not to remain back there. Before you stand in front of us make sure to travel back and apply it in real life. Preach that sermon to yourself and your world and if you can at least move with it you’ll have a friend cheering you in the congregation.

Find your Passion Switch
It’s said some people can sell you anything because they do it so passionately. The problem with some expository preachers is they can rest on just having the faithful script with them. They know the truth, they want to preach the right thing but give little attention to the delivery and landing process. But I guess for most of us who are starting out we just don’t know how to go about it. I want to say if we are compelled by the truth we will be compelling in our delivery of it. If the message had an impact on us we need to do the same for our audience.

While we can apply methods like storytelling, humour, helpful illustration and the like it all depends on how passionate we are about the truth in front of us.

We need to find our passion switch. To want to communicate the passage in a way that moves people. But this is not just about the methods. It’s about us and the truth. Think about how you told the news of your wedding, your graduation, your first job… There was an enthusiasm that made people want to listen. While we can apply methods like storytelling, humour, helpful illustration and the like it all depends on how passionate we are about the truth in front of us. Some people can talk all day about their jobs because they are passionate about them. Others won’t stop bringing football into every conversation. Why can’t we do the same with our preaching? Make the people in front of you see you value and love what you are teaching. Passionate speaking is infectious. Find your passion switch before you come out to preach.

Think about the People
Faithful preaching cares about people because God cares about them. You cannot love preaching and not love people. That’s like loving a party without people. Unfortunately, sometimes we think so highly of preaching than we do the people in front of us. We call ourselves soldiers of the truth but miss the recipients of the message. If that explains you and I then we should stop preaching and ask God for a love for his people first. Don’t go to that Sunday service with your points and illustrations if you’ve not thought of the people.

Jesus was a faithful preacher, he knew his text but what moved him to preach is the people.

What moves people is when the preacher is both faithful to the text but also faithful to them. I always admire the instances where the Gospel accounts note that Jesus saw the masses and had compassion for them. Jesus was a faithful preacher, he knew his text but what moved him to preach is the people. Do you want to be a great speaker and influencer? Think about your audience first. Ask yourself where they are at in their journey of faith. What are they struggling with? Do they need encouragement or rebuke? Faithful preaching is neither tied to the text nor the people alone. It’s tied to both. It’s faithful to the text but it’s also faithful to the people.

First Things First

Andy communicates clearly that Mission belongs to the church. Missionaries are sent out by the church. And at the very least it is expected that missionaries are accountable to the church. There is no mission if there is no Church. Jesus did not send out missionaries but sent out the church to go and reach the ends of the earth with the message of the Gospel. The church, therefore, has a responsibility to help its members pray and support those who are reaching the unreached. We should always remember that the Church is a central player in the work of missions.

Andy further says that we ought not to focus on immediate results but always be reminded that patient endurance is of paramount importance in Missions. We are to leave the results of our work to God and know that both time and results are his. He is in charge of all time, efforts, and results of mission endeavors. Andy powerfully stands firm in saying that we cannot use our numbers as the only measure for mission success.

Short Term Trips

In his observation, small teams have become the ‘new’ practice where members of a church or small group take time off their normal schedules with the backing of their churches to travel long or short distances to go and get an experience of what the field looks like. These are not entirely bad but can have potentially harmful effects on the missionaries on the ground, as well as the people to whom the always available missionaries minister. Short-termers may have great stories, pictures, and even a list of decisions for Christ but the overall effect of their trip falls short of the Gospel expectation on Missions.

He mentions that the said trips can make the participants feel good for what they did and that creates a new problem where the trip is so much not for the Gospel but the experience and a boost on self-esteem. In this case, then it will be difficult to encourage support for a long-term missionary who hardly comes home when we can see the joy radiating from short-termers who went out for a week and had return tickets at their time of departure. I think this is a good argument to help us prepare well for such trips as we aim to make the Gospel central even for such trips. He advises that it would be far better if the missionaries themselves welcome short-termers and determined what they would participate in to help spur the Gospel agenda of missions.

Long Term Commitment

It is with great caution that he also points out the danger of having pastors, elders, and sending agency leaders imposing quick solutions, and making decisions when they visit the field. While it is okay to offer a piece of our mind it doesn’t mean that all we know would have to be applied in a field where we do not work and stay throughout the year. This is a wonderful call for us to take contextualization into perspective and to sensitively engage input from others before we respond to the urge of wanting to be problem solvers.

One area where we in Africa are trying to address is the entry point for small churches when it comes to being involved in global missions. The book has some wonderful insights on how every congregational size can participate. He suggests that research and prayer can be the first steps. Where the church gets information about possible fields and begins to pray for those fields. It will especially remain a great deal if the leaders are fully convinced that missions are important and that will trickle down to the members. An inversion to this flow would make it very hard for a congregation to participate in missions.

The Question of Support

Andy gives helpful parameters to help measure who qualifies for support. In my opinion, the criteria suggested are great but it would also easily lock out many who think or might have a different view or perspective of their calling in missions compared to his church’s view. I was drawn back by learning that a time came and some missionaries had to be informed about a huge change in their lives after a decision came about that their support would be withdrawn. What would happen to such missionaries and their families? Even with a 3-year notice, such a change would have lasting effects on the hearts of the missionaries and the people they were reaching out to.

There’s no cause for alarm there. We know it gets to a point where hard decisions need to be taken and communicated. The case cited is an example of a well-handled situation in my opinion. But it would be important to prepare missionaries on the field for when such a scenario would occur in our varied contexts. It is easy to prepare for the good news we hope to receive from the fields where we send workers, and this is great. However, it is important to marshal up strength if unforeseen changes will need to happen in our areas.

Recommendation

Andy Johnson has worked on a wonderful book addressing this matter of Missions. All the steps in the Missionary lifecycle have been well captured and the manner of writing is fit for any reader who wants or is already playing a part in missions. He has an unrelenting pastoral counsel over malpractices and even cites examples of how some ways of doing things didn’t work in his experience. The book’s content is surely thought-provoking and action stimulating to see that we engage in missions while being true to the scriptures the very words that will bring about salvation for men. I would recommend the book to every person who has come to the saving grace of Christ. These are the very people who have all it takes to participate in missions. I dare say that they are expected to do so!

The article was written by Stanley Wandeto

Director for Missions, iServe Africa.

Many Christians spend a good part of their early years wrestling with the question of their unique gifting. This is especially the case where the church has overemphasized the place of gifts more than the place of character and service. I remember sharing with a friend that I was thinking about Christian ministry back in college and the first thing they asked was what’s my gifting. According to them, Gospel ministry was for those who knew their specific ministry gifts.

But I think this question isn’t just important to those considering full-time Christian ministry but one that explains service in our local churches. You see if people wait to discover their specific gifts so they can serve then you are going to have a lot of people on the waiting list. Someone will argue I cannot teach so I can’t join children or youth ministry. Another will say I’m not good with people so I can’t do welcoming and hospitality. Or I’m not as good as the song leader so the music team isn’t for me.

This inward-looking question will in the end keep you away from service and you’ll not actually discover what you can do for the body of Christ. But here I want to suggest you avail yourself first and let your specific gift if you only have one be discovered later. Because the gift is from the Spirit and for his church then begin by rolling your sleeves to do anything that your hands find to do for the church family. I’ll give 3 reasons as we reflect on this.

Jesus is calling Disciples not Gifted Professionals
When Jesus called his first disciples he didn’t sit them through an interview process to know how good they would serve him. He called anyone who would come to him. Coming to follow him, being with him, and obeying his calling was more important than what they could do for him later, see Mark 3:14. It wasn’t until later that he would send them out in the great commission yet they did serve him by being there with him. They were with him from the beginning, they walked with him and served alongside him without titles. You can say they were his errand boys but who wouldn’t want to be Christ’s errand boy.

What I’m saying here is that the body of Christ needs people who are willing and ready to roll their sleeves and do the work. It needs those available to serve in any and every way not just those with specific gifting and experience. The church needs people to be available in what is called the ministry of presence and to fill in the gaps as they notice them. And it’s only when you are available and ready to serve that the church can then discover your specific gifts not when you sit and wait.

When I did my first apprenticeship I didn’t know what was my specific gift but that meant I was available for anything. I was given an admin job which I wouldn’t have availed myself for before but it was the best ministry I have ever done. That’s where I actually learned how to write as I prepared weekly briefs. Then I tried youth ministry which was at first scary and then it became something I cherish today. I went on to welcoming which I always thought wasn’t for me only to realize how strategic it is. In the end, I wasn’t concerned about my specific ministry gift but was looking for where there was a need. I realized if you are willing to serve then you can have all the gifts to choose from.

Service is the end of Gifting
We can all agree that if the most gifted pastor doesn’t use their gift to serve the body of Christ then it’s a useless gift. They may talk about how good they are with the microphone but that benefits no one. Jesus didn’t call his disciples to display their abilities but to roll their sleeves and work for his church. It’s not our unique abilities that matter but our preparedness to serve and to do it wholeheartedly. It’s actually as we give ourselves fully to whichever area of ministry that is available that we discover what we can do best for King Jesus.

I find people who label themselves with a particular gift early on close the door for service too early. They are content with being evangelists when they haven’t tried hospitality. They pride themselves on their preaching skills without ever discovering the beauty of children’s ministry. They walk around with empty titles when their local church needs them to be available and do whatever is needed. It’s good to clarify that I’m not against discovering our unique gifts early on but I think service is bigger than us and our specific gifts. Because the gift belongs to the church then our availability to serve God’s people is what matters not what we do specifically. In time we may realize a unique need and our ability and decide to concentrate on one or two areas of service but we should always be ready for whatever the master calls us to do.

The Kingdom is bigger than my Gifting
It’s not a surprise that there are countless ministries built around a specific person and their unique gifting. It’s actually very human to rally people behind what we believe and are good at. And it’s not always wrong or premeditated that it happens like that. But we need to be careful if our churches and ministries draw and produce people who are just like us. We may be the most charismatic preacher or the most organized administrator and the most welcoming guy but we must be ready to have and grow many who are unlike us and yet fit for the kingdom of God. Let them come and discover the endless opportunities there are to serve the Lord.

God’s church needs all kinds of servants for all kinds of ministry for the benefit of the whole body. I think it’s a tragedy if everyone in a team thinks and serves like everyone else. Worse if we only think there are only 5 ways or so one can serve the church family. In time this would bring competition and complacency if there are only a few areas that all can do. But the way God has constituted his church is that we find all kinds of people with all kinds of abilities and opportunities to serve in the kingdom of God. The better way to view the church isn’t checking everyone’s gift in order of priority but seeing everyone as a unique gift to the local church. I think if we all set aside titles and abilities we would realize just how much we are needed in the kingdom. We would see beyond us and the vast harvest all around us. We wouldn’t shy from service on account of specific gifting instead we would discover just how gifted we are as a church.

Conclusion
In this article, I have argued that being available is better than being gifted. Yes, I would rather you try to service and fail if anyone ever can fail at service instead of waiting to be good to serve. More than that I think we need to realize that Christian gifts are not qualifications for a CV but opportunities to serve. They are actually not your gift but they belong to the church. In the end, service is what matters not how well we score in a certain area of ministry.

Many people live and die without knowing their unique gifts yet toil so hard for Jesus. And when we come to him the words welcome good and faithful servants is what will matter, see Matthew 25:23. I believe that in heaven we’ll find people who were totally unknown and unappreciated in their diligent service yet are regarded highly by the one who knew their good works without a title. Friends, it’s better to be an errand boy for King Jesus than wait to be recognized by your gifting here on earth.

Daisy Njenga leading our staff devotion through Psalms 12

In a world corrupted with sin, even the word legit is not legit. Human relations are not spared as they are many times overrun with conflict on account of sin. It is in this very world that we find vain chatterers. We find proud men who like to bring praise to themselves and flatterers who like to lavish insincere praise on others. But when we are loose with the truth the weak are not spared as they suffer greatly at the oppression of the ungodly. Perhaps you have been caught up in these vices in the past either as the oppressed or as the oppressor.

Coming closer home, how many times have we failed in our own words? How many times have we been dishonest with people perhaps when we feared sincerity would put the friendship at stake. How many times have we promised what we did not think about two seconds later, just because we were afraid of appearing weak? How many times have we disappointed others with our words because we wanted to appear well collected?  Have you been disappointed by a compliment that was given insincerely or with misguided information? Well, this was not different in David’s time as we shall see from Psalm 12.

Psalms 12 is a Psalm of David, which he wrote as a lament having witnessed people talking insincerely with one another and the weak being oppressed as a result. David writes asking for God’s help in this situation while praising God because unlike men’s words his are pure and trustworthy. Looking at the previous Psalms, we can say that David knew of the incorruptible and unchangeable nature of God and he believed in him. We see David asking for God’s help when faced with human injustices such as false accusations as we see in Psalm 7. Here in Psalm 12, we see David allude to the purity of God’s words, in comparison to man’s corrupted words. The big idea is that because God is trustworthy, then his words are pure and they can be trusted implicitly unlike the words of men.

For our reflection, we’ll now briefly look at the flow of Psalms 12 using the ESV:

Vs 1-2  David Laments Against the Ungodly

The Psalmist laments about the disappearance of the godly at a time when everyone spoke lies to his neighbor. He speaks about those who use flattering lips. Flattery is such a serious vice as we see in Daniel 11:32 that it is used as a powerful tool by the enemy. Maybe closer home, is to think about how it’s used in politics at such a time as this. Many a time the public seems to support a person just because they are getting a few coins but in their hearts and elsewhere, they undermine the same person. David cries to God on account of those who flatter with their lips and harbor deception at their hearts.

Vs 3-5 He Pleads with God to Judge the Proud and the Flatterer

From verse 3, we see the Psalmist greatly distressed by the boasts of the proud who disregard God. He pleads with God to bring justice against the wicked. In verse 5, God answers him saying he’s the one who hears the cry of the oppressed. When it feels hopeless we see the character of God as one who does not overlook sin but instead he says he will rise to defend and protect the weak.

Vs 6-7 David finds Refuge in the Pure Words of the Lord

In this section, the Psalmist compares God’s words to silver that has been refined in a furnace on the ground purified seven times. This brings a clear contrast between men’s vain words as we have seen in verses 2-4, and God’s pure words. The process of refining silver is indeed long and tedious, but the refiner watches and waits patiently till he can see his image clearly through the end product after all the impurities have been removed. This is what the Psalmist compares God’s word to that unlike the words of men it is without impurities of flattery, lies, and pride. It’s pure and trustworthy.

Spurgeon once wrote;

“The Bible has passed through the furnace of persecution, literary criticism, philosophic doubt, and scientific discovery, and has lost nothing but those human interpretations which clung to it as an alloy to precious ore. The experience of saints has tried it in every conceivable manner, but not a single doctrine or promise has been consumed in the most excessive heat.”

Vs 8 He’s encouraged that though Wickedness seems to Prevail there’s Hope

David seems to be ending this Psalm on a sad note looking at what the wicked continue to do in vs 8. But as we’ve seen:

The Psalmist is assured of God’s protection against this deceptive world, where vileness is exalted among the children of men. His confidence as we have seen in verses 6 -7 comes from the fact that God has promised to bring justice to the helpless and his words are trustworthy. So it’s not a sad note because the godly are not on their own.

Conclusion

Through this Psalm, there is a clear call for us who have believed in the Lord Jesus, to be careful with our words. Let it not be asked in our generation and specific society, where did the godly disappear to? But the big encouragement is that while we cannot always trust the words of men, we have the sure word of the Lord who died for our sins. This serves both as an encouragement as well as a challenge for us on how we use our words. We are to depend on God’s words as believers both as an example for our words and a source of refuge in this wicked world.

The world needs passionate men and women. People who are committed and self-driven to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Those won totally and visibly by the Gospel. Those who are using every second to build the kingdom of God. It’s exciting when people speak about reaching the lost so passionately. About going out of their way to reach the unreached. Risking their necks for the lost overseas. It’s great to hear from those passionate about children ministry, church planting, students, families, preaching, evangelism, and so on. 

Talk of changing our political scene with faithful leaders, influencing the corporate world with men with true faith and godly practice. What about the education level, media and technology, the police, the judiciary, the transport sector, and whatever else gives you sleepless nights. We need passionate men and women in all spheres of life that the Lord calls mine. I pray that the Lord would make me this kind of man so passionate for him that I ooze the Gospel and its influence in my corner.  But there’s a danger when we are too passionate in one area of ministry.

When we Only See our Corner 

There’s a danger with people who are too passionate in one area because they can be too invested in their corner of ministry and miss the forest of God’s vast kingdom. When we feel all resources, time and energy should be directed to our area and especially to us we’ve narrowed the kingdom too much. I’m passionate about training people for Gospel ministry and availing training resources to the next generation. I hope we can invest as much in this area. But if I imagine that’s the only way to serve God or it is the only area that matters then I’ve lost the bearing of the kingdom of God. 

What’s worse, passionate men can be selfish and proud men. We might look down on others and what they are doing. We might think they are wasting time. We might feel we are doing a better job. We might be jealous if they get the resources that we think we deserve. We might actually speak ill of them and their ministries. But all this is sinful friends regardless of our commitment to the Lord and the specific causes we are pursuing informed by the Gospel. 

We need to survey our hearts and our motivations that we are being godly and not after selfish interest and our own glory in our ministry pursuit. I would say we need to force ourselves to speak well of others. To say little of, I’m doing this and why are you not joining my corner. Instead to encourage those serving in a different area that we are probably less passionate about. Speak about their work and pray for them genuinely to be provided for even more than us if it pleases the Lord. After all, it’s his work and they are his labourers. 

When we Expect Others to be Like us 

If we are passionate about children’s ministry that is good and commendable but we need to remember the Gospel has many other groups in mind. Men and women, rich and poor, office workers and construction workers, rural and city people, Africans and Asians all need the Gospel. Just because someone is not passionate about our ministry and just because they don’t see how strategic and urgent it is doesn’t mean they are not serving the Lord. 

In the case where someone seems to lack passion in anything we deem important we shouldn’t look down on them. As the word says it’s before their master that they stand judged, see Romans 14:4. Actually, if everyone was passionate about everything very little could be achieved because no one would be convinced to come alongside others. You need people you can challenge. You need others to encourage. Others need their energies redirected while others need to be given a Gospel passion. And perhaps you also need a broader scope of the kingdom of God and be clear on the calling we have all received.

You see being passionate about ministry isn’t the end goal anyway. We need to always ask ourselves where our work and ministry ends. All ministry work however important is actually temporary because worship is the end goal. In heaven, we’ll not be doing walk-up evangelism or even full-time Gospel ministry. Our gifts, our strategic ministries, and all our passions will have ceased when God’s people arrive to be with their Saviour forever. That’s the end goal friends, to walk with the Lord now and enjoy him forever. Fellowship with the Lord is the end goal. Our walk with the Lord and bearing fruit for him in our lives is the first calling. What we do for the Lord however passionately follows after we are walking with him. Remember on that last day your passion and your ministry won’t save you, Jesus will.

When we Mistake how People Change 

People who are too passionate think they can move mountains. It’s a beautiful thing and there’s a lot we can do for the Lord when we give it our very best. We should have big dreams in our ministries, we should make big prayers and go for big steps. But we should remember that only God can change people’s hearts, see Ezekiel 36:26-27. Whatever we are passionate about isn’t our own doing anyway. We were not born passionate in that area. We didn’t even care about it before the Lord opened our eyes to that need. It was the Lord who sowed the seed and watered it before we claimed it our own. 

If you’d love for more people to be passionate about a certain ministry go to their Lord and Saviour and ask for his help. Don’t argue, abuse, call hell down, mourn and complain before you ask the Lord. If you sense a brother would make a great children’s minister save up some convincing energy for asking the Lord for his passion and commitment. If you see a gap that exists in the church don’t kill the pastor with new demands. Start praying about it and call others to pray on it. If you feel a particular ministry isn’t getting enough attention don’t spread hate and call people names. Talk to the Lord about it. You’ll be surprised how he starts to change you and others in that direction. 

Weighing our Passion

All of us however sold out to the Lord and his work need to remember we are on a discipleship journey. None of us have arrived and yet so often we operate like we have already made it to heaven and are back helping others. That’s a lie that blinds us to our blind spots in our walk with the Lord. We also need to remember nothing we have is our own, see 1 Corinthians 4:7. Not even our passion, our gifts, our clarity of the Gospel, and our key ministries. They are all gifts from the Lord and he has many other gifts and many other areas of ministry with many other faithful people. Let’s be careful not to miss the forest of God’s kingdom for our small tree.

If the Lord is calling us to a certain area let’s go for it with all the energy he provides. Let’s come to him with big prayers on the same. Let us get as many others excited on the same. But let us also remember the kingdom of God is bigger than us and our area of ministry. If others thrive in other areas of ministry we should praise the Lord for them. If some don’t seem as excited or convinced to join us we should pray about it and be okay with it. But we should also be careful not to build a kingdom around us. We need to remember it’s the Lord’s work we are doing, the resources come from him, the passion is his to inspire and the opportunities are his to open which means it’s him to have all the glory. If we weigh our Gospel passion and find we are at the heart of it, that we are always fighting on it and hating others because of it we need to repent and ask God to give us a bigger vision of his kingdom.

I grew up loving stories. I loved listening to my uncle tell funny ones of the sneaky hare and the scary ones of giants and ogres. I loved reading any story I could find in our school textbooks and would pause everything for a storybook. There’s just something in a good story that not only excites the mind but grabs the heart. Stories can teach your most complex ideas and moral lessons in a very simple and yet compelling way.

When I came to the Bible even before I could say I was a believer those Old Testament narratives always got my attention. In Sunday school they informed our training curriculum. I wonder who in this country has not been taught about Joseph, Samson, Father Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel… And I think here in the African church the Old Testament remains an important text for many pulpits today. Our preaching is in many ways storytelling and there’s a lot of merit in that when it’s done well and faithfully.

But the problem with the stories in the Bible is they don’t end up where other stories end. In our African storytelling, a good story has done its job when the moral lesson is arrived at. You can actually change a few details to make the story do the work for you. You can change character names and give it a more modern feel. In the end, people don’t stand and say that would never happen. They ask, what I’m getting out of it. There would also be more than one lesson from a good story and it’ll work for any group of people.

The Gospel interprets Bible stories

But Bible stories are to be understood a bit differently because they are not just mere stories to draw out moral lessons from. As Christians, we believe them to be historical and they are not just crafted for moral lessons. God is the one telling his redemption story to us through them and he has a specific lesson for us as reflected within the grand narrative of the Bible. But more importantly, we need to remember that we are living in a different time today to when the story happened and was first told. We are in the era of the new covenant of grace not the old covenant of the law.

Here I find the book of Hebrews is really helpful in understanding the transition between the Old to the New Covenant. This is probably the one book every preacher must read and understand though I know I say the same for a lot more others in the New Testament. This is where the preacher gets his theology right as we see right from Hebrews 1:

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. Hebrews 1 NIV

This is a great place to comment on how God speaks to us today. But another implication is that teaching the Old Testament to people in the New Covenant calls for us to ask, how does this passage point us to Jesus and his Gospel? That’s a good rule for teaching any passage in the Bible but even more important in the Old Testament. A better way to put it is, what is Jesus our New Covenant teacher, saying to us today in this passage about himself and what he came to do? This doesn’t mean we ignore what the Old Testament passage had in mind for the original audience but we cannot stop there as New Covenant believers. We must always come to that point when we ask, how does this point us to Jesus and the Gospel message?

Samuel points us to Jesus

For instance, if we read the story of the calling of Samuel in 1 Samuel 3, we meet God speaking to a young boy while ignoring the old Eli who’s obviously failing in his job as a priest and parent. If we stop here we’ll get the lesson that God is about to replace the wicked priesthood of Eli and his sons. We’ll see Eli’s indifference to God and his voice. But if we stopped there in our preaching then we are likely to end up only with good moral lessons. Depending on our theology we can say almost anything at this point and there’s no way of saying some are more right than others if it’s all about our take from the story.

But if we read this story as New Covenant disciples we’ll see a lot more here. We’ll actually be amazed what Jesus is teaching us about himself and his Gospel this early in the Bible story. We’ll see that Samuel in many ways is like Jesus. We’ll remember the popular Luke 2:52 from Sunday school days. His encounter with the teachers of the law early in life will come to mind. But more than that we’ll see what Hebrews tells us, that Jesus is a better leader and high priest. He’s the one who is better than Eli and his sons who are wicked. But also better than Samuel because he won’t die. In Jesus, we have the perfect high priest who is sinless and eternal. The one who guarantees our eternal salvation and is always present to hear our prayers. There’s a good lesson for today’s leaders within the church to take away here. But even that is to be seen in the light of the Gospel and Jesus example, not from a good moral lesson perspective.

Now, I know this example makes it sound like it should be so easy and obvious, and yet that is not the case. I also know there’s a danger of reading narratives backward when we only want to see Jesus in the pages not wrestle with the details of the passage. I know the route to Jesus and the Gospel can sometimes feel too simplistic. I’m aware certain people can make sermons all about getting things theologically right and not living it out. That this can make the church sound like a theological school, not a discipleship training ground. I also know we’ll only preach specific passages better when we have the grand narrative clear in our minds. But I think this is a good place to start. We already know how to get the moral lessons out. What I am suggesting is we go an extra mile to pay attention to the story while also asking the big picture questions. To be biblical and Gospel-minded in our preaching we need to point people to Jesus and the Gospel.

Only the Gospel bears lasting fruit

The challenge when we leave people with moral lessons even good Biblical ones is that we leave it all in their hands. It’s upon them to change and become better disciples. But if we do that we are not only missing the grand narrative of scripture we actually set people up for failure. New Covenant believers know they can’t do it by their own might and grit. It doesn’t matter how committed and theologically right we are, we just can’t do it without our Father’s help. Only the Gospel of Jesus can bear the fruits we desire in our audience.

We need Jesus to bear the fruit he demands in us. We need the Father to kill the sin he hates in us. We need the Spirit to remind us of the small respectable sins we overlook. New Covenant preaching converts moral lessons to Gospel lessons. It calls for prayerful action, not just a determined response. It demands careful attention to the word but reminds its audience that they can’t actually do what it requires unless the Lord works it out from inside out. Faithful preaching goes beyond moral lessons, it points people to Jesus and his Gospel, to the only one who can truly change them from within.

When I first started sharing a lot on social media I thought I had learned something the world needed to hear. I was for the first time coming face to face with the true Gospel as the Bible taught it. It was just not something I could keep to myself. But a few years later I came to realize maybe Facebook shouldn’t have been my first go-to audience.

You see it’s only social media that allows a new convert to be a church elder the following day. To qualify for the office all I needed was to be vocal about my convictions and not necessarily godly in my character. I would point fingers at anyone but never myself. But while some said I was bold many saw my ignorance. I would see it with time and regret my quickness to share and fight in public.

You see social media can hoodwink us to think that this is the platform I just need to turn the world upside down. I have 3k followers and I won’t rest until they all know the truth. Sometimes I would even get offended seeing that good churches didn’t do as much online ministry. That was before COVID forced all of them to run there.

But now, I’m actually skeptical of how much can be achieved online. We need to think a bit more before we put that post out there. Sometimes we might conclude this belongs to my diary, not the public space. And if we cannot kill a post that says a lot more about us. Perhaps we are the ones who need help.

Don’t get me wrong I appreciate this platform and you know I use it as much as I can. There’s a lot of good we can do here. But unfortunately how we do this can sometimes lead to hurting than building the body of Christ. Sometimes what happens on these streets rarely makes a difference if not giving us the wrong labels.

But since like COVID social media is here to stay, we need to think a bit more about those we are trying to reach and how we do that. We need to know our world so we can be effective on this pulpit. And we need to remember the times we live in. Here are a few things to bear in mind.

You can’t put us in a box – “Hatupangwingwi”
We are a rebellious people in a democratic world. We hate authority and anyone who tries to tell us what to do. We despise those who hold their labels and show us how wrong we are. They might be right but who are they to question us? You might feel this way about this post and I’m sorry for the offense caused.
But this means that even a good pastor will have a hard time rebuking and correcting his loyal congregant. What about a stranger that you have no relationship with? I think you are inviting trouble before you finish your first paragraph.

It is for this reason that I think that deep theological questions don’t belong on the social media school where there’s such a wide range of standpoints and you are more likely to be misunderstood. If we are genuine and truly want to help people that’s not where we’d start. Going to the mosque and screaming, Jesus is Lord might look bold but I doubt you’ll do much before you are silenced. We also need to remember that the call to be bold doesn’t always mean we have to be offensive to be truthful.

I sometimes wonder how come we speak so less of the many things the Bible addresses simply and clearly to all. We speak little of the call to die to self and serve others. Speak less of killing sin daily. We speak less of the need to grow in the word and in prayer. Speak so little of our heavenly calling. Less of the call to one anothering. Instead, we always seem to go for what divides us not what would mutually build and challenge us all on social media.

Know your crowd -“Even Algorithms know their audience”
The interesting thing about this global village is that yours is just a small village in the wider globe. By this I mean you actually don’t have the attention of the whole world contrary to what we might imagine. Your audience is still people who mostly already agree with you. They subscribe to your school of thought and already like you. The exception is those you’ve attracted for the wrong reasons.

This means our posts echo what our clan already believes and it might help to ask what would build and encourage them. I was taught any good sermon has a specific audience in mind. But if we write our posts for people we cannot even imagine having a relationship with then we are just shouting to the air.

On the other hand, we need to remember how hard it’ll be to convert those outside our clan. Our posts ought to be directed to those we are already serving and meeting as often as we can. These would only reinforce what they already believe not try to teach something new and controversial in such an environment.

Change takes time and the right space
Perhaps this is the one thing we always forget with social media. We put up a post, wait to see the comments, and assume change is happening. But that’s just not how it works. How long has it taken us to change? And how did that happen? I doubt it was a post from a stranger on Facebook that did it. If we happen to convince someone on social media it’s probably because others are already working alongside them in real life.

I think it’d help if our posts were geared to mutual encouragement of the saints more than forceful and offensive engagement. Point them to the one who can grow and change people. Let social media just be a supplement to ongoing ministry, not the primary platform.

Remember we hate toxic people
Branding people toxic and cutting them off has never been easier. We’ll do it in a beat and I bet a lot of us have already blocked a number of people. Sometimes it’s the best thing to do in some cases. But this also communicates how easy it is to reject what we don’t agree with.

It means if we truly love and care about the people we want to reach then how we do it matters as much as what we post. For every challenge, I think a normal human being needs at least three encouragements. You’d notice the Bible labors a lot on positive motivation before the negative. Paul who was clearly unashamed for the truth spoke a lot of encouragement to the churches before he could rebuke them. If our wall is then full of offensive language I doubt you’ll achieve as much.

Our intentions are not always neutral

The Bible teaches us that our hearts are desperately deceptive. It’s possible to think we mean well and our actions are informed by a love for God, his Word, and his people. As I said we might feel disappointed that others in our circles aren’t trying to share the truth as much. But we need to ask ourselves what’s in it for me? Why is it that I feel so strongly about this? Is there something else lurking in my good intentions? What idol is begging my attention?

It is a good thing to share our deep-held convictions and it should give us comfort to imagine we are helping others. In a platform where people are already feeding on a lot of junk, I can say we need a more helpful and balanced Gospel diet. But I shouldn’t think it’s my job to comment on anything and everything. If I have to force my convictions on others then I need to be rebuked. I need to remember I’m a sinner too, that I haven’t arrived yet. For anyone who seeks to teach others, I think we doubly need to ask if we are learning from the Saviour ourselves. Are we killing our own sin? How are we pursuing godliness? Do we know our idols and might we be feeding them in the name of helping others?

So where does this leave us?
When all is said and done I would submit that God works despite our ignorance and arrogance. All of us would remember things we’ve said and done that we might regret today. Perhaps there are posts we’ve had to pull down. I think we shouldn’t beat ourselves too much if that’s the case though we should learn from it. If anything that shows growth.

This also doesn’t mean we only share what massages people’s egos. It doesn’t mean we cannot challenge others as the word is challenging us. Actually, any talk of the Gospel will be challenging and offensive. But it does call us to weigh what we do, be careful how we do it, and be intentional with those we have in mind. Our posts can benefit people we don’t know and didn’t expect but only because we were also informed by a love for a specific audience.

We need to be intentional with our ministry and if possible let our focus be on people we already walk with. There’s a reason Jesus had a primary audience among the twelve, not with the crowds and the Pharisees. Even when he spoke to the crowds he had the disciples and those who would be his disciples in mind. That old method of working a deep Gospel work with a few to reach the many is still the most effective model. Let social media supplement that not spoil, compete or take over from it.

Our Missions manager, Stanley teaching during Induction Workshop

We learn preaching long before someone sits us down to say this is how we should preach. We pick up things from our favourite preachers and we seek to emulate that. We might change a few things borrowing from different people but we rarely come up with new ways. It’s not just in preaching actually life itself is a copy-paste exercise. We see something good and we want to do that.

But somewhere along the line, we might get an opportunity to sit and learn that there’s a right way to do this. We might not accept it immediately or even drop everything to follow this path but slowly we are won over. I think this is what happens when we start learning Expositional preaching that seeks to let the Bible speak for itself.

The problem, however, is trying to apply here does not come easily. You spend all your preparation trying to get the passage right only to realise it’s full of good truths but little application. You see if you grew up hearing and doing problem-solving, motivational preaching that wouldn’t be a problem. You already have an application in mind and all you need is the Bible to agree with it and you have a sermon. Here you’ve got to do the hard work of getting the passage right and then wrestle asking how does this apply from them to us.

This is probably the main reason we might give up on expositional preaching. It feels too hard and academic. We feel like the church is becoming a school and we know few Kenyans loved school. We might do it but drop the ball at the end by going for the quick and obvious applications. Tell them what complex doctrine they should learn from here. Remind them to pray, read their Bibles and go to church regularly. Fix their gender and sexuality views, questions of abortion or their commitment to mission, whatever we think are the big things in the public sphere. All these are possible but mostly lazy ways of doing Biblical application. And I’m speaking about this because I’ve done it before even without realising it.

But we can grow friends as we give more time to apply and learn from others. It won’t be fixed in a day but we can grow as we remember the word has spoken to real people in the past and is for real people in the present. Here are a few things I’ve picked up mostly from others but also when I’ve paid a bit more attention to the passage in front of me and the world around me.

Aim for the Heart, not just the Head
This one I learnt from my apprenticeship years but I always need to be reminded of it. That the Bible isn’t an academic book and that fixing the head without the heart won’t do it. It should be obvious but it’s not. You look at the life of Jesus disciples, they were learning directly from him so knowledge shouldn’t have been a problem though it didn’t always come easily. But how long did it take them to believe him? Actually, towards the end these guys will desert him, betray and deny him. Peter saying he was the Christ in Mark 8 didn’t prevent him from denying him in Mark 14. And I bet Judas had a lot of good theology but his heart was somewhere else.

When we come to applying the Bible it’ll help if we ask ourselves where change begins. And we don’t need to go to psychology for this. Look at how Paul writes his letters. There are great and beautiful truths to blow our minds away but he also beckons the heart to believe and the hands to act. Ephesians chapter 1-3 is followed by chapter 4-6. His job is not finished until he persuades the heart and by effect seek a real change from the heart that brings a change in conduct. He tells them not just what they should know but also what they should believe and do by effect.

Think Culture not General
So often we forget the power and the influence of the environment we live in. We forget that the Bible speaks both to the person and the world around him. If you fix the person and keep him in the same environment there’s no guarantee he won’t go back. A lot of things we do are shaped by where and who we live with. If you want to help someone struggling with pornography you need to ask what is making it so common these days. You can’t just say stop it you might need to say change your environment and your patterns of rest. Go out and hang out with friends. Put the gadgets off.

But this is not something we bring to the Bible, actually, it’s there if we pay a bit more attention. The Bible from day one tells us we are not alone in the universe. It warns us about the world, the flesh and the devil. We need to deal with all these enemies. It teaches us to kill sin in our lives, to turn away from the flow of the world around us and say no to the schemes of the enemy. Actually, the Bible often shows us all these enemies work together like we see in Ephesians 2:1-3. To grow in Biblical application we shouldn’t ignore one of these for the other.

Go for Progress, not a Quick Fix
The worst thing about living in our consumer world is we want to fix things like yesterday. We do one sermon and expect change by the latest tomorrow morning. It’s no wonder we can get very disappointed when we don’t see results and sometimes try to cook the results ourselves. But that’s naive because if we were honest there are things we learnt years ago that we still struggle with. How do you expect your audience to change overnight?

Actually, if we were to pay attention to our Bibles we’d realise God plays the long game. How many years is he telling Israel to have no other God but him? And how long does he have to wait until he finally sends them to exile and still he doesn’t give up? How long does Jesus tolerate his disciples who simply don’t seem to get who he is when all the evidence is pointing to him? And how long does he have to wait for them to accept his mission and follow in his footsteps? When you think application think progress however messy, not a quick fix.

By Prayer not Might
It might shock some of you but it seems this has taken me longer to learn. That no real change coming from the heart comes unless God acts. It should be obvious because Jesus says it, apart from me you can do nothing, John 15:5. We should see it if we paid attention to our own lives. We just need to remember how we came to faith in the first place. How long God was beckoning our attention before we said the prayer. And still how long he has to tolerate us as we hold on to our precious little idols. But no, we keep thinking a little more hard work and commitment will do it. We can even give principles of how to overcome a certain sin and grow a certain gift in a day. I think we are setting ourselves up for failure and depression.

Dear friends, I’m learning prayer isn’t just for the beginning and the end of the sermon. Prayer is what makes the sermon work. Prayer is your main application. You need to ask God in the closet and in your preaching to change you and those people. You need to point them to him if you truly want to see change. If God doesn’t work don’t even bother preaching unless you are doing it for fun. I’m learning to ask how can we prayerfully apply this? What prayer do we need to make on this? Lord, what are you telling me to pray on this? I think this is a gold mine and it’s no wonder Jesus would drop important ministry for this. He knew if he was going to accomplish anything it’s only if the Father did it. Apart from him, we can do nothing friends. We can’t even change ourselves leave alone anyone else.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say something about God that logically should make sense but is biblically not true. For instance, someone will say, if it is of God it should be easy. Now when you pause to think about that you can see how it actually makes sense to some extent. You can even get verses to support that. I mean if the Almighty God is behind it who can challenge it and succeed? How can it be difficult if the good and gracious God is behind it? But we only need to turn our Bibles to look at Jesus, look at the prophets, look at Jesus’ first disciples, and realize none of them had an easy time.

Jesus about to execute his most important mission to save humanity faces a great deal of struggle emotionally and spiritually. Matthew 26 tells us:

38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

This was God’s own mission but it wasn’t easy. Actually, the life of Jesus, the son of God, was full of sorrow. It wasn’t easy trying to open his disciple’s eyes. It wasn’t easy being rejected by his people even his own family who thought he had lost it. If this is the one who calls us to follow after him then we shouldn’t expect it to be as easy.

Paul in 2 Corinthians 11 paints a picture of his life that leaves you wondering was that God’s mission or something else? It wasn’t an easy life for him yet his ministry is one that glorifies the Lord to date. I might go as far as saying that if it is of God it’s most likely going to be difficult because we live in a hostile world.

Perhaps you’ve heard this popular one that since God owns everything and we are his children, especially those of us in ministry, then we should have everything. To some extent again logically it makes sense. If you pause it there you’d say that can’t be wrong. I mean why wouldn’t the one who walks on gold not throw some of it down to his beloved people? Why wouldn’t the caring God heal his beloved children? How can he watch us struggle and not act immediately?

But our logical knowledge here is betrayed when we turn to the scriptures and look at Jesus, God’s beloved son, his first disciples, and all those Messengers God sent through Israel’s lifetime. How many of them came with private jets to deliver his message? How many of them lived in mansions? And if the son of man was the one who unlike the fox didn’t have a place to lie down why would we expect ours will be the easy life?

The problem here is we might actually have read our Bibles but closed them too quickly to make our conclusion. We needed to realize there’s life now and a life to come. We’ve not arrived yet and if we have comfort and something to spare here and now that’s by the grace of God, not the norm. Here and now we live in a hostile world like Jesus did. A poor world like Jesus did. A persecuting world like Jesus did. But his sure promise is to guide us to him by his Spirit and walk with us through it all.

Our riches are what we find in Ephesians 1:1-14. That we now have all the spiritual blessings in Christ, we are the most privileged people spiritually speaking. Our confidence is the promise Jesus made in the Great Commission to be with us to the end of the age, Matthew 28:20. And we have the assurance that he has gone to prepare a home for us so that where he is we might be there also, John 14:1-3.

Now the aim of this article isn’t necessarily to split hairs or make the Bible sound illogical. Instead, it’s to encourage us to always ask this question, what does the Bible and the whole Bible say about this issue. Logic alone won’t do here as often our logic stops where our comfort ends. We are also not to pick one passage and run with it. We need to ask what’s the context and what do other portions of scripture say about this issue.

We’ll be good disciples if we read more than our favorite verses. We’ll be better disciples if we humble ourselves before God’s Word to say, teach us Lord we who are simple. And a far greater honor goes to the disciples who don’t just do this exercise to win arguments but to live it out and help others gently and lovingly. How I pray that the Lord makes me that disciple. A disciple who listens and abides in what his word says even when it’s contrary to what I want for myself. A disciple who opens his Word in humility and his heart in obedience.

The first lesson as a human being ought to be that I’m not in charge. To know that I’m born to a world older than I and rest in the hands of the maker who brought me here. I’m not in charge of this world and I’m not even in control of my own fate. Yes, I would love to be in control. I would love it if I can guarantee my future and be in charge of my present. I would love it if tomorrow was mine to command and today mine to rule. But I need to know that though there are aspects of my life I can control yet there are many factors beyond me. I need to get it right in my mind that I’m not in charge before the world lies to me that I am.

Though he should choose to take us through the furnace of suffering his hand still would hold us. And I should say his hand is firm than mine.

But if that’s the first lesson for a human being. The first for a Christian ought to be that it is good and right that I’m not in control. Not in dismissive indifference but because our God is in control. Yes, given a choice I should always choose God to be in charge because he’s a better Father than any of us will ever be. He knows best and he who didn’t spare his own son for us will surely do right by us. Though he should choose to take us through the furnace of suffering his hand still would hold us. And I should say his hand is firm than mine. His mind has the best interests for his children and his heart knows best their weaknesses. If he wounds us the good potter will make good of his clay. If he should prosper our ministry I should remember it’s his work at hand, not mine.

But my problem is to know that my heart will even so constantly doubt his control. That there will be times I wish I was in charge and doubt he knows what he is doing. That you’ll find this clay ask its maker, what are you doing? What is wrong with you? This tells me that I need to intentionally and constantly let him take charge. If he’s the Lord of all I need to let him be my Lord indeed. I shouldn’t wait until he has to show me he’s in charge. By then I might hate him for it. I would rather know and expect him to take charge at all times. But I need help here because the idolatry of my heart will always compete against his sovereign hand. Many will be the times I take his seat and want to be my own lord and god. I need his help to know and believe that no other god not even myself will lead me better like our heavenly Father would.

At the heart of that first rebellion, we see our pride and the idolatry of the heart to take charge of our lives thinking we can do better than God.

Isn’t it interesting that the first man having everything given freely to him was tempted to set the word of God aside for the promise that he would be like God? At the heart of that first rebellion, we see our pride and the idolatry of the heart to take charge of our lives thinking we can do better than God. We read in Genesis 3:

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3.

How often do we follow in the footsteps of that first Adam to our ruin and heartache? So often the old serpent says you’d do better than God and we yield like we don’t know he’s been a liar since day one. But the redeemed are called to follow in the footsteps of the second Adam who we are told in Philippians 2:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross! Philippians 2.

Jesus was happy in God’s charge even though he could have said he is equal with God. He taught us the path to glory is yielding and trusting in God’s charge. Trusting him in the good and the not-so-good times. It should therefore be the business of our lives and something we need to pray regularly for that our Lord would give us such an attitude of humility and faith in his sovereign hand. Whatever awaits us dear Lord teach us now to take comfort that you take better charge of us than we could ever do.