Some years ago I tacked a little picture of a hammer and a nail right in front of my desk on my wall at work. The caption reads, “Hit nothing but the head, every time.” It’s aimed at my preaching, kind of a teacher’s mantra—a reminder to say what God lays on my heart without wavering even just a hairsbreadth from that course. People aren’t changed by beating around bushes. Generally speaking, we avoid change by doing that.
This past fall I’ve been leading our church through a season of collective soul searching. My sermons were, uh… direct to say the least. The series was called “Deception” and systematically unmasked some of the pernicious lies we church folk have come to believe, especially the ones that have crippled our ability to reach a fallen world with the gospel and power of Jesus Christ. You can listen to the podcasts of those messages on iTunes under Dalhousie Community Church. Or find them on our church website under “resources.”
“Is not my word like fire,” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29). This verse captures my heart’s prayer for my church, THE church, this past season. The thing is, preaching like that—not pulling punches, saying it like it is, calling a spade a spade, naming the elephant in the room over and over again—was thrilling, challenging, and exhausting. I was trying to create the kind of moments where it was impossible to sit back in the pews and shrug out an “I could care less.”
I got what I prayed for.
The past few weeks have encouraged me beyond words. Conversations, emails, notes—so many people have shared God moments stemming from the series, including major life changes, decisions to move forward, and personal realizations. I have received heartfelt affirmation in droves, urging me to stay the course, to keep laying it out there for the congregation to wrestle with.
I’ve also received some of the most pointed criticism I’ve ever encountered. Which is hard, but like I mused to Shauna before launching this series, “I want people to either get mad or get engaged. No more sitting on the fence.” I believe that’s precisely what’s happened. Which reminds me of Jesus’ ministry, actually. There’s no record of people hearing him speak and thinking, “So what?”
No, when Jesus spoke, the reaction was always some version of “Now what?”
Jesus, thank you for leading me. Please give me strength to keep going. May the affirmation of your Spirit, above all else, be the food for my soul.