We’re truly trying to get to know Jesus a bit better this year, right? We’re deep into the Gospels. We’ve got a church-wide reading project (the Know His Voice project) going that lasts all year long. We just spent three months on Sunday mornings in class on the material unique to Luke’s Gospel. There’s the Wednesday night auditorioum class I’m current teaching on John’s Gospel right now and we’ll be in it for awhile. And there’s a series of sermons that I will start the week after Easter Sunday on Sunday mornings (The Tough Stuff) that will call our attention to some of the most difficult things our risen Lord has said. And there’s more.
So what are you getting out of all this? I’ll tell you what I’ve been getting out of it – the exact same thing Jim Martin wrote about on his blog, A Place for the God-Hungry (a blog, by the way, you’d be truly blessed to read regularly). Back on Feb. 22, Jim wrote a powerful post entitled “If Jesus Told the Truth.” The editors of Leadership Journal posted it on their blog, Out of Ur, too, though under a different title (“What Would Jesus Preach?: Telling the Truth in Church“). Flying under whatever title you prefer, this is simply required reading. Thank you, Jim, for telling us the truth, and for kindly giving your permission to reprint it here, too.
I am thinking about my teaching/preaching. I am thinking my words, my sermons, and the over all message these people hear.
I am thinking even more about my own life. At times, I feel like I have gotten lost in a system that has eaten me alive. At other times, I think that I am simply coming back to what really matters most to me. This is why I am thinking about the following two questions:
What if Jesus were the guest speaker/preacher at our church this Sunday? What would he say?
Oh I would like to say that it would be a wonderful day. I suspect our numbers would go up. Adult children would call their parents to come visit. Children of our members would drive in from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to hear Jesus speak and then have lunch together afterward. I suspect our members would be a bit more eager to invite friends in our community.
The question is: “What kind of day would this be?” You say, “Why Jim, it would be a great day! Jesus love us. Why wouldn’t it be a wonderful day to hear him speak?” OK, you’ve got a point. Yes, I do know he loves us. I have no doubt that Jesus would be tender with the broken, the poor in spirit, and those who are genuinely seeking him.
Let me be real honest. I am afraid of the remarks that he might direct toward me. You’ve read the Gospels. You know how he could be very candid with religious leaders.
In fact, anyone who is a church leader of any kind might want to think about this. What will he say to those of us who have been a part of the church for a long time and who see ourselves as “mature?” Let me be even more specific. What if he preaches the material in the Gospels?
What would he say? I wonder if he would evaluate things differently than we do? He might say something like the following:
You do not evaluate your lives the way I do. I am more concerned about whether or not these people love God and people than anything else.
You do not evaluate your church the way I do. I am more concerned about you being my presence in this community rather than whether or not you may be happy with the way things are going.
You do not evaluate spiritual maturity the way I do. Some of you have been Christians for a very long time. You need to be more mindful of the younger and less mature. Some of you have been Christians for a lesser amount of time. You need to be grateful that your forefathers pointed you to me. All of you need to remember that the bottom line is loving God and loving the people who you interact with.
You do not evaluate truth the way I do. Sermon messages are not good if they seem to pass the popularity contest. There were times when I spoke and people walked away, wanting nothing more to do with me.
You do not ask the right questions. You need to be asking in your families, in your church meetings, and among your leadership these questions: “What does Jesus want us to do? What would he do? What do we know about him that might help us know what to do?”
Maybe you too, need to think about this in light of your own life.
Jim Martin serves as the preaching minister for the Crestview Church of Christ in Waco, TX where Mike & Martha Coates are very involved members.