There is a story told of a church in the rural south, which, in the midst of the civil rights struggles on the 1960’s, was perfectly and amazingly integrated. When asked how this came about, the preacher explained it like this:
“One day our preacher died and we needed a new preacher. Since nobody else volunteered, I decided I’d be our preacher. So on that first Sunday, I opened up the Bible and put my finger down to see where to preach from. The verse said, ‘In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female’ so I preached that sermon. After the service the Deacons pulled me aside and told me that they didn’t want no more preachin’ like that at our church.”
When asked what he did then, the preacher said, “I FIRED them Deacons and got me some new ones. And then I preached that same sermon every Sunday until everybody in the church either agreed with it or left. And I preached that church down to 25! Then we started living it.”
Sometimes, as a preacher, it’s important not to try to impress folks with your vast scriptural knowledge, keen theological insights, and skills of wit and oratory. Usually folks just need the basics of the faith – and they usually need to hear them over and over until they get them figured out. Here’s Paul’s advice to Timothy:
Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul. 2 Timothy 2:14-17
Cuts right to the quick, doesn’t it? Probably because even two thousand years later we still get stuck in the “Pious Nitpicking” groove where we chip away at not only the faith of others but we do ourselves no favors. Perhaps we slouch into this mode because it’s much easier than doing the hard work we need to do to be unashamed.
Even when it’s plain and simple, sometimes the truth still hurts . . .
Pressing on toward the goal . . .