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Are Messages from the Pulpit Making a Difference?

Suicide, murder, alternative education, and the display of poor character by Christians have all affected me during the course of one week. A high school friend and mother of two ended her life after being diagnosed with cancer. The brother of one of my students was innocently shot to death on the streets. Another student with an anger problem was suspended and recommended for alternative educational placement. And, my co-workers in an attempt to diffuse a potential public relations disaster planned to “cover-up” a situation that inevitably got exposed anyway.

Once we accepted Christ into our lives we became new creatures, all things are now new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our minds/thinking is renewed (Romans 12:2) and prepared to be reprogrammed with the software (and hardware) of God. We have new eyes that now look at the world through the lens of the Bible (I Samuel 15-16). The way we talk is new because we learned to ask for wisdom so that we are able to speak life and not foolishness (Proverbs 17:7) into the lives of others. Our lives are to mimic the character and walk of Jesus Christ for He is our example of victory in the faith.

Obviously, something is amiss. I remember sitting at the funeral of my student’s murdered brother observing the attendees during the sermon. My heart sank as I watched the 18-25 year old, black males dressed in jerseys, baseball hats, and sagging pants walk in and out of the sanctuary like a movie theater. Clearly, these young men were not used to church culture. So, why didn’t the message from the pulpit reflect that? What was it about the selected Bible verses and illustrations (that only church going people understand) that did not connect with a room full of young people who needed to hear the Gospel?

We live in a culture where there is a generation of people who have never stepped foot into a church. And, I can hear echoes of these people asking “Why should I go to church? Christians live lives that are just as hopeless as mine.” So, how do we reach them? Saint Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying “preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” The messages from the pulpit (that I hear) are strictly for Christians. The teacher/preacher is sermonizing “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).

“But if we are the body, why aren’t his arms reaching; why aren’t his hands healing; why aren’t his words teaching? … Why aren’t his feet going; why is his love not showing them there is a way? There is a way” (“If We are the Body” by Casting Crowns). We, in the pews are supposed to be recharged, rejuvenated, and reactivated to go out into the world as the body of Christ to do the work necessary to share the hope, power, life, and love of Jesus Christ. Our “lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work … Clearly, [we] are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry…This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

The only way to make a genuine difference in reaching those who need to hear and believe so that they may pass from death unto life (John 5:24) is to marinate in His word daily, talk to God continuously, allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, and stay in fellowship with other believers as our Christianity becomes a lifestyle. And, after we have introduced others to Christ and the Holy Spirit begins to soften their hearts, maybe they will take the extra steps into the church building to hear the message from the pulpit with ears that have already been touched by the Spirit of God.

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