“Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do… And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.” – Matt 23: 8 – 10 (MSG)
Whether it’s my personality, my inbuilt introversion and shyness, or whether it’s an unhealthy fear of the opinions of others, I’ve never enjoyed the limelight. Yet, Christian ministry can often thrust you up there on the pedestal. Whether its preaching or singing or teaching or some other such thing, the pressure to ‘perform’ then becomes very real. Many of our churches still function around the 20 minute talk by the person up front., and so the pressure is on. The flip of this is when there is something God-given that you can offer, it’s right to offer it.
The challenge of the church today is that it can so quickly become about personalities: who we like, who we agree with, who talks like we like, who fits with our perspective and all that sort of stuff. And lets face it, if your church experience is fixed around a 20 minute monologue, you can understand why people vote with their feet to find someone more palatable to listen to. But, I increasingly don’t feel church is about that.
I mean, I still think there is a place for teaching/preaching, and I think if it’s going to happen it should be decent, but more than that it should point to Jesus. I guess the days where the Sunday preach was your main discipleship tool are long gone. If we want to encourage people to act, then our learning has to be done by doing not just by hearing. It strikes me that much of Jesus training for his disciples was just that…they literally followed him and watched him at work as he encountered folks. And then, in the context of small and intimate gathering with his disciples, he would then teach them further in depth. Incidentally, Jesus more often spoke to large crowds when he was in sort of evangelist mode…there, you can see almost the 1st C equivalent of the TED talk, where Jesus speaks to inspire and challenge, but where most of the deeper learning happens afterwards (think forums, video comments, blogs, further research/reading). The contrast between Jesus delivering the parable of the sower and him teaching his disciples afterwards what it meant is the picture in my mind.
In all things, my prayer is that the gospel will be both proclaimed and demonstrated, and that my life can reveal God’s rule and reign to others. If that means standing on a platform, in a small group, or one-to-one in a cafe, then so be it but please lets remember that it’s only ever the case of one beggar telling the next beggar where to find bread.