Many years ago I had an older gentleman “encourage” me as a young pastor by telling me “if you preach the Word, people will come.”
This sounds good. It might remind you of an incredibly stupid baseball movie involving an Iowa cornfield. But it will not remind you of any Bible verses!
But as a young, idealistic preacher I liked the advice. I believed it too.
So I started preaching the Word. I began in Genesis and started going through chapter by chapter (skipping some of the drier chapters). Eventually it took me 16 years to get all the way through to Revelation.
I learned a ton. Spending each week studying a new chapter of Scripture completely changed my faith.
And therein lay the problem. What I believed changed. It’s ok if the average Christian who rarely talks changes their doctrine. No one seems too troubled. People brag to me all the time about how they’ve recently found the magic doctrine that unlocked untold happiness in their life. No one bats an eye.
But if a pastor changes what he believes, boy howdy, what’s wrong with this guy? Paul says a pastor’s growth should be evident to all. Yeah, good advice Paul.
If you grow, if you learn, you will change some of your doctrine. You just will. This is not allowed for a pastor, unless, of course, you change and believe exactly what everyone in your church wants you to believe.
By the time I finished Revelation, probably 25% of my doctrine had changed and I would say it changed for the better, like way better. Most of what I believed before was stuff I heard people that I assumed knew the Bible say.
Spend 16 years preaching through the Bible and you’ll find out real quick very few people are saying what the Bible says.
I continued preaching what I had learned and I learned more and refined my changes. I felt after 21 years of preaching I was way closer to preaching the Word than ever before. I’m not saying I’m never wrong, or that what I believe is always 100% exactly what the Bible says. But I can confidently say I’m closer.
You would expect that over that 21 year span of increasingly preaching the Word that all those people the old guy said would come just flocked in.
You would be wrong. There was hardly anyone left when I resigned. Funny thing is, the old guy who told me people would come if I preached the Word? He left when I was in Ezekiel 14. Yup, I remember the chapter.
Ezekiel is a long way from Revelation.
I preached the Word and pretty much all it did was make people leave.
Remember how the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us? Remember how He came unto His own and His own received Him not? Remember how they nailed the Word made flesh to a cross? Remember how the Word made flesh told you not to be surprised if the world hates you, it hated Him first?
Yeah, me too. If you preach the Word, expect people to leave.
“But,” I can hear you say, “My pastor preaches the Word and we have hundreds of people, our church is growing by leaps and bounds!”
Yup, I know.
It’s possible there are exceptions to the rule, but they would be exceptions, not the rule.
Instead of saying, “If you preach the Word, people will come.” You should say, “Preach the Word.” That’s it. That’s what Paul said (2 Timothy 4:2). He never once seemed concerned about whether people came or not. He just said, “Preach the Word.”