Thursday, August 24, 2006

Do We Preachers Want to be Popular?

One of the hazardous temptations of a preacher is to hold back on the truth to curry favor with others. Even a preacher wants to be liked and he has to check himself to see if he is tailoring messages to garner acceptance from "important" people.

Preaching the gospel is noble but using the gospel to gain worldly advantage is deplorable. Consider some of Wesley's recollections for June 10, 1757 as he addressed a public crowd in Scotland:
At six, William Coward and I went to the market house. We stayed some time, and neither man, woman, nor child came near us. At length I began singing a Scotch psalm, and fifteen or twenty people came within hearing, but with great circumspection, keeping their distance as though they knew not what might follow. But while I prayed, their number increased; so that in a few minutes there was a pretty large congregation. I suppose the chief men of the town were there; and I spared neither rich nor poor. I almost wondered at myself, it not being usual with me to use so keen and cutting expressions; and I believe many felt that, for all their form, they were but heathens still.

Wesley blasted 'em with the truth. What a sentence this is: "I suppose the chief men of the town were there; and I spared neither rich nor poor." Wesley didn't rip the poor while comforting the rich; he took both to task. John Wesley didn't care for their applause—he cared for their souls! The English evangelist felt that he challenged them not to take refuge in an empty form of religion but press forward to Spiritual reality.

This reminds me of God's unique calling of Ezekiel to prophetic ministry. He ordered him to guide the Jewish exiles in Babylon:
I send you to them, and you shall say to them, "Thus says the Lord GOD." And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. (Eze 2.4b-7 ESV)
Wow! God told Ezekiel that they might not pay attention but that wasn't the prophet's concern. Ezekiel's concern was to be faithful to the message.

We are called to be faithful, not popular.