by Robert Earl Houston
I’ve been privileged down through the years to officiate at many, many weddings. Matter of fact, I have had the joy of uniting couples in Oregon, California, Tennessee and Kentucky. I’ve officiated at the weddings of strangers, friends, acquaintances and relatives. All weddings are filled with pageantry, poignancy, and personality. No two weddings are the same. But all marriages come to that point of where familiarity sets in and that which was special on the day of the marriage is now no longer special, excitable nor does it move you like it used to.
So it is in marriage, so it is in ministry. Every pastor and every church comes to a point of familiarity. If a church and a pastor are not careful, that familiarity can breed contempt.
I recently preached a sermon entitled “Don’t Let HIM Down” when Jesus received the complaint of a father who brought his son to Him after the disciples could not heal him. Jesus said that the Disciples had demonstrated a lack of faith and needed at least the faith the size of a mustard seed. My point is that when the spectacular seems ordinary, when the possible is viewed as impossible, and when steak is referred to as hamburger, a season of familiarity has begun.
No one is exempt from this. It’s going to come. No matter how they holler, run and shout today – the day will come where they will talk instead of holler, walk instead of run, and stare instead of shout. Not all church members, thankfully, are like that – but Pastors have to make sure that they don’t become so familiar with their congregations that in order to pacify people, principles become pulp, preaching becomes pablum, and pastoring becomes pointless.
Even in the largest megachurches in the nation, no sanctuary is 100% full every Sunday. Even the largest churches carry some of the highest debt load even higher than some businesses. Even the television ministries carefully pan the audience not to show the empty seats. In other words – when things are familiar, the excitement and the crowd is subject to change.
The best way out of this is this: preach! Don’t carry your burdens to the pulpit. Don’t let their familiarity draw you into a stage of lethargy. If you worked hard on your sermons when you got there, keep on, as our guest, Rev. C. Ramont Morris said to the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, showing up! Skeptics? Keep on showing up! Naysayers? Keep on showing up! You don’t have to battle with anyone because the battle is not your’s, it’s the Lord’s.
Then pray for a Revival – not for the people, but for you. Pray that God will give you that freshness and awe of the place where you stand every Sunday. Pray that you’ll love on those who come to hear you preach every Sunday and not become bitter about those who leave because you couldn’t turn water into wine and you couldn’t accommodate their problems. Don’t be bitter, be better.
I’m going back to my pulpit on Sunday, with a word from the Lord, grateful that He sends people for me to sow into their spiritual lives every Sunday, and with the idea in my heart that i’m going to stand there, with everything that I have, and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ like it’s the first time. The Season of Familiarity will not be one that I plan to experience, but for a short time.
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