The pulpit in the clown
I take Jeremy's points in his post and wholeheartedly agree with them. I would want to add a counterpoint though. I do think one of the dangers we face as young men (I'm 35 and hanging in there) is often preaching out of the pulpit. What I mean by that is we adopt the speech and attitude of men of a previous generation and so even in our regular conversation we sound like we're preaching. If there's one thing the world cannot stand it is falseness. This was brought home to me last Sunday morning when my daughter was baptised. I was leading the service and was delighted that lots of our non Christian friends were there; my neighbours and some of Claire's work colleagues came along. I was suddenly conscious that there are times when I have a church voice. I was more nervous because there were people who know me well from a completely different perspective than that of my brothers and sisters in church. I am at ease with these people when we are talking in the street or in the pub and although they will never feel at home in a service of worship, they must never think I'm two different people.
If we're honest, too many of us have very few non Christian friends and so we allow our churchiness and oddness to grow. Of course I want to warn my neighbours and friends of dangers, I want to explain as carefully as I can they need to flee the wrath to come but my manner must be 'me'. I mustn't allow churchiness or preachiness to consume me. I'll never forget being in a funeral with my brother when the preacher said to the congregation, 'Non Christian have you never asked yourself is there no balm in Gilead for me?'. I'm sure there were countless non Christians that jump in the shower asking that very question. It was obvious that preacher had completely lost touch with reality and was living in churchland speaking the language of Zion.
I'm with Jeremy on the serious nature of preaching but we mustn't become something we're not. Intensity and an overbearing earnestness just produce guilt ridden Christians. Far too many churches love being beaten up and far too many preachers are happy to oblige. As far as we can be we must be normal, the longer you are in the ministry the harder that gets.
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