Monday, November 26, 2012

An Encouraging Word

Recently, I went through the last 15 years of my sermons to catalogue them according to scripture reference, topic, etc. I don't know if you have ever attempted such a task, but let me say that it is daunting at the very least. I keep a copy of every sermon via notes or manuscript and thus have the data in which to compile. As I neared completion of my compilation, I noticed a trend in my sermons that concerned me. I have had a tendency to preach sermons which challenge people to do something (be obedient, pray, read the bible, witness, etc) more than any other genre (if you will) of sermon. There is nothing wrong with issuing challenges to God's people, however, when the bulk of one's proclamations major on challenge alone, I see a problem. The problem is a lack of balance.

Yes, the people need to be challenged, however, they also need to be encouraged. Our people need more than to be constantly challenged with a little bit of encouragement thrown in. Our people also need to hear sermons with are completely encouragin without loading on more challenges. To constantly challenge with little encouragement is unbalanced preaching.

Perhaps I am the only preacher who has had this problem but I don't think so. When I read in our state papers about denominational employees speaking to local groups, invariably the report is about how the speaker issued "such and such" challenge. In last Friday's online version of my state paper, the Biblical Recorder, the three lead news items have to do with speakers issuing challenges to their audiences. Once again, there is nothing wrong with sermons that challenge, however, there needs to be a balance with sermons that encourage. Perhaps I've been looking in all the wrong places, but I rarely see encouraging sermons.

I think people can only take so much challenge preaching. After continuous doses of challenges with little encouragement, I think our people begin to tune us out and we become less effective in our preaching. In most of the pastor conferences I have attended, at both the state and national levels, I have noticed the same phenomena of mainly challenge preaching. If there is any group of people who need to be encouraged today, it is pastors of local churches, and yet, we hear very little encouragement at pastor's conferences.

In addition, your local church has many hurting people listening to you every Sunday. Many of them are at a breaking point and they need an encouraging word from the Lord. The last thing many of your people need is another challenge. Many of them are just trying to get through the day. Surely you have an encouraging word for them from the Lord. I'm going to do my best to be more balanced in my preaching. I hope you do the same.

Remember, encouragement is not just for the hospital room or funeral parlor. It belongs in the pulpit as well.