Seeing the Big Picture
See the Big Picture
In the last several posts we’ve been looking at what to do when things go wrong in the worship service. Here’s a link to the first post in that series. Today we’re going to explore how to see the big picture in your preaching.
This past week I read some missionary stories in preparation for lectures that I am preparing for a new class at CLI. Such stories help me see the big picture of what God is doing in the world. This one struck me as particularly powerful. The year was 1950. The place was South America. Bill Hammond, who was a missionary with South America Mission, had been agonizing with other missionaries on how to reach the Ayore’ people. This group of people was warlike, and a few years earlier had murdered five New Tribes Mission missionaries. Here’s a link to information about this tribe.
One day Bill, who had been praying about reaching the Ayores’ felt “an overpowering urge” to go to El Encanto, a town 75 miles away. And the only means of transport was on horseback, through a jungle with hostile tribes, and flooded paths because it was the rainy season.
An Overwhelming Urge
Even with all these reasons not to go, Bill still felt an overwhelming urge, “that would not leave”. So Bill headed to El Encanto. His goal was to meet with a Bolivian co-worker by the name of Angel Bravo. As he traveled, he prayed.
To his great surprise, he met Angel Bravo on the trail. Angel had felt the same “unreasonable urge”, and so came to find Bill Hammond. It turned out to be a historic trip that led to the first peaceful contact with the Ayores’. (Edith Norwood, “SAM’s Hall of Fame: William F. Hammond”, Windows, April-June, 1989, p. 4) It was only after the mission went forward that they were able to look back at this “chance” meeting and they were able to see the big picture of what God was doing with them and through them.
What do you think of stories like that? For many years I thought that such things happened on the mission field, but not in my life. Then I began to notice many coincidences that happened as a result of my prayers. I had “urges” like that of Bill Hammond. In 2006, God made it abundantly clear that I was to come to Grand Haven, Michigan to pastor Covenant Life Church. This was true, even though I grew up in Michigan, and really never wanted to live there again. That this was God’s will became abundantly clear as a series of events happened that were unexplainable. Unless….
Seeing God Behind the Curtain
I remember reading one person who described these kinds of events as God being the prompter in a play. He’s behind the curtain, giving lines to people, encouraging actors to be in the right place on the stage, etc. That author described God as being “behind the curtain”, not directly seen by the audience, but his presence is felt, and his directions keep the “play” of our lives moving. Only those actors who know he’s back there can see the big picture of the play.
What Does This Have to Do With Preaching?
You might be thinking right now, “Nice story, but what does this have to do with preaching?” Good question. It was through a 63 year-old man named Tom that I came to realize that God was calling some people to come to my church, the place where I preached. The man was an alcoholic, and was in jail with his fifth citation for driving under the influence. While there, he felt God saying to him that he needed to change his life, or he was going to die.
That set the man on a quest to find God. Where was God to be found? When he was released, he decided that he had to go to church. However, he hadn’t been in a church since he was 17 years old. He remembered, as he was thinking about this, and praying (though this was a new experience for him), one counselor that visited him, and that he had mentioned Covenant Life Church. So, one Sunday, he showed up. And he was found by God.
The Next Time
The next time you get up to preach, see the big picture of what God is doing. Reflect on the fact that God called several people there to meet him that day, and that he is going to use you to facilitate that meeting. Then rejoice that God uses you in the process of accomplishing his purpose.