Preaching Is God’s Tool

Preaching Is God’s Tool

In the last couple of  posts we considered whether preaching is worth the effort in a world that is so deeply impacted by media.  God reminded me many times that preaching is God’s tool to change lives.  Let me tell you about one of those times.

First Church

Calvary Church

The first church that I served as pastor was a congregation in Plainwell, MI, a typical expression of the small church in America. When I arrived as pastor, we had about 90 people worshipping regularly.  I learned a great deal from those people, as well as from those who joined us during my time there.  One lesson that reverberates in my mind and heart is that  God works in surprising ways to change peoples’ lives.  And I learned that preaching is one of God’s tools to accomplish that.

The Depression

At about the 3 year point in my time in that church, I slipped into depression.  Things weren’t moving as fast as I would have liked, and I was overwhelmed.  I was preaching twice per week, with different sermons in the morning and evening services.  That required writing two sermons per week, developing the orders of worship, writing the bulletin, and coordinating anything out of the normal in the worship service.

In addition, I taught the high school Sunday School class on Sunday morning, and led the high school youth group after church in the evening.  Also, I did all the pastoral care, and tried to be a good husband and father.

I remember taking our dog for a walk in the evenings and asking God, “Does preaching really make a difference?  Is it really worth it, all this work I’m doing?”

A Blast to the Past

Jim Spitzner

A couple of years ago, I and my wife received an invitation to an open house.  One of the prominent members in that church, a man named Jim Spitzner,  had terminal cancer, and he and his wife decided to have an open house.  They invited anyone who had had an impact on their lives, and that included me.

The event was about 60 miles from our home.  Along the way there my wife and I remembered many of the people and the events of my time as pastor in that congregation.  We hadn’t seen most of the people who would be there for 33 years.  What had happened in their lives?

We arrived and greeted the host warmly.  He reflected on the impact my messages had made on his life.  We interacted with a few other people, and then went to the food line.  Deb was serving.  I hate to say it, but she didn’t recognize me.  I had a full head of long hair back in my 20’s, along with a full beard.  In the years since, the hair had left most of my head, and my beard was reduced to a goatee, a gray one at that.  My wife introduced herself as Pat Ballast, and Deb said, with tears beginning, “Is Pastor Bruce here?”  I returned to the line, and she told her story.

God’s Tool At Work in Deb

She was a reluctant church attender when I was pastor there.  She married the son of the host of the gathering under some duress.  You see, she was pregnant.  Because their financial situation was somewhat dire as a newly married couple, they moved in with her husband’s parents.  One of the rules in the household was that if you live there, you go to church on Sunday.  So she came, resentful, and with walls high.

Yet, through the preaching of the Word, God began to pry open her heart, and she became a passionate believer.

God’s Tool At Work Even When the User Is Ignorant

Here is the great surprise.  I didn’t even know that this was happening.  I never prepared a sermon with her in mind.  God took what I said, and gradually broke down the wall and began to build a new life.

You may never know what God is doing through the messages you give, but be aware and thankful now that preaching is God’s tool to move in the hearts and minds of the people who listen.