By Mike Willis
Sometimes the preaching is boring. Even Babe Ruth did not hit a home run every time he batted! Sometimes a person is tired and fights sleep I’ve been there too! Consequently, everyone is not totally edified by every sermon that is preached and some sermons are not as beneficial to a person as another might be.
But this is not what this article is discussing. This article wants to address that kind of listening that tolerates the preacher saying some-thing but has no intention of changing one’s conduct. The Scriptures describe some who had this attitude toward preaching. God described Israel’s attitude toward Ezekiel’s preaching. He said,
And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not (33:31-32).
Do these words describe our attitudes toward preaching?
We come out of worship and comment, “That was such a good sermon, preacher.” We comment about his ability, “He is such a good preacher.” But what do we do about what is preached? Try these examples on for size:
1. Modest dress. Nearly every year, I preach a sermon on modest dress because we come to that time of the year when many take off most of their clothes and go swimming in public swimming pools, beaches, and water theme parks. Many go out in public wearing shorts that cover not nearly enough of the body. Some go to church and listen to a sermon on immodest dress, but go ahead and dress like we want to. This makes me think of God’s words to Ezekiel: “thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.” Is that what is going on in this case?
2. Being on time. From time to time we stop to comment on the need for us to be conscious of our time. There are times when there are more Christians standing in the hall while the opening song for Sunday morning worship is being sung than there are inside the auditorium. We all agree that the first song and prayer are just as important as any other; we all agree that the coming in late disrupts our classes. But what do we do about it? This makes me think of God’s words to Ezekiel: “thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.” Is that what is going on in this case?
3. Attending the business meetings. Everyone agrees that the church functions best when we have all involved in the local work. When men choose not to attend business meetings, the church suffers because: (a) there is a segment of men who are not giving us the benefit of their judgment; (b) there is a segment of men who do not volunteer to carry a share of the load of work. Sometimes business meetings discuss important issues and men of strong conviction some-times have different judgment about those issues. The Lord willed that we have discussions that sort out what the truth is. The wise man said, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17). There have been many times that I have gone into meetings strongly committed to one point of view and seen my view change as I listened to what others have to say. This is how the Lord wishes us to help one another.
I also confess that business meetings do not move as fast as I sometimes wish. Sometimes there is long and drawn out discussion about relatively insignificant issues. Usually this happens because the one chairing the meeting wants to give everyone opportunity to be heard and does not wish to leave an impression that anyone’s point of view is unimportant. These are commendable attitudes and we should be able to see through the minor aggravation to appreciate the brotherly spirit behind it.
Having admitted that these things are so and that occasion-ally some words are spoken in a business meeting that do not need to be said or said in the tone that it was said, nevertheless we recognize that, in the absence of elders, this is the most effective way to carry on our business. Is the church’s business important enough to take an extra 1 ‘h to 2 hours every month to discuss how to improve our service?
We recognize the truthfulness in what is stated, but what do we do about it? Do we arrange our schedules so that we can be there? Do we thicken our sensitive skin so that we are not so easily irritated? Do we think about ways to improve the Lord’s work at this place and then join hands with others who also are interested? Or, do we sit back and listen to another exhortation and go ahead and do what we want to do anyway? This makes me think of God’s words to Ezekiel: “thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.” Is that what is going on in this case?
Let’s be careful to avoid that kind of listening that tolerates a person telling us what we know is true but then doing nothing to change our conduct. Sometimes I get the feeling that brethren come to church to get their weekly scolding for misconduct and then go away and live like they wish for another week, returning on Sunday to go through the same thing all over again. This is not healthy. Not all preaching needs to be scolding and what deserves to be scolded needs to be changed. We can do better.
Guardian of Truth XL: 7 p. 2
April 4, 1996