Loving Your People Makes Preaching Better

Loving Your People Makes Preaching Better

It seems to be a rather obvious statement: loving your people makes preaching better and easier.  But a question comes up rather quickly: how do you love the jerks?  Your church has them, I’m sure.  The churches I served certainly did.

A Blast To The Past

I recently was traveling with my wife near the building of the first church that I served as their installed pastor.  It was a little church, but during the four and a half years that I preached there, I saw God do wonderful things in the lives of people.  The church closed about 4 years ago–I heard this through the denominational grapevine.   However, I am a bit of a reflective mood as I approach my 70th birthday in a couple of months, and so we took the slight detour to spur memories.

As we pulled into the small parking lot, another car was just leaving.  I supposed that they were turning around, so I ignored them and parked.  We walked around the building, with me looking in the windows.  I walked around the parsonage next door, our home for our time there and tried to see inside.  Then I noticed the other car had returned.  What a serendipitous gift God gave to my wife and me that day.  A man got out and came up to us and asked if we needed help.  It turned out that he was one of the people on a church plant team that was going to launch a new congregation there in the near future.

He let us into the building, and listened to our memories of people and activities there.  In a short time, the pastor of the new congregation came by to do work in the building.  It was a great time of sharing, and they graciously listened to stories from 40+ years ago that came pouring out of us.

Loving People

Loving the Dirty One

There were some people who were difficult to love in that church, for sure.  Clarence comes to mind.  He was developmentally disabled, but lived by himself in a house that was beyond filthy.  He had two dogs who defecated in the house, and flies and other bugs huddled around him.  I would sit on the edge of a chair during my visits to him and think how nice it would be to have a church that had “normal” people in it.   Loving your people makes preaching better and more effective, but how do you love the dirty one?

Loving the Alcoholic

Then there was Janet.  She was a binge alcoholic.  I would get a call every few months and listen to her slurring speech on the other end, asking for help again.  So, I would get her and bring her into the hospital again.  She would go through treatment, and then be sober again for awhile.  She was frustrating, because though I and others in the church offered help to avoid taking that first drink, she never called then–it was only later, when she had consumed bottles of her favorite drink that she would realize she needed help.  Loving your people makes preaching better and more effective, but how do you love the alcoholic?

Loving the One Who Left

There was my friend, a man with whom I played golf each week during the summer.  I got a call from him on a Sunday morning when he was going to be installed as a deacon.  He wasn’t coming, he said.  They found out on Saturday that their 17-year-old daughter was pregnant.  I visited that afternoon, and he informed me that they were going to take her to get an abortion.  The irony was that my wife was pregnant and sick enough that she endured several hospitalizations trying to keep the baby.  In an ironic twist he and his family were at the same time aborting a child.  They left the church a short time later.  Loving your people makes preaching better and more effective, but how do you love the person who abandons you?

Loving People and Preaching

So the big question stands: how do you love the people to whom you preach?  Loving your people makes preaching better and more effective.  I believed that then, and I believe it even more now.  To be transparent, there were many lovely and loving people in that church that were easy to love.  I could share those stories as well, but for the purpose of this post (and the next one) let’s look at this idea of loving people in your church.

We haven’t looked at this subject in this blog before.   As I looked back at the posts in this blog over the past years, I noticed that I tend to focus on the details, the “how” of preaching.  I realized again in our blast to the past that I haven’t spoken about this.  I came close in this post about preaching with passion, or this one about preaching with compassion, but never addressed this idea that loving your people makes preaching better and more effective..  So, let’s consider the “how” of this in the next post.