Stop Preaching About Jesus!
So at a recent conference I heard a very compelling communicator give a passionate talk that was all about Jesus. That is precisely the problem: the talk seemed to be more about the idea of Jesus than the person of Jesus. He spoke as if Jesus was a simply a great historical figure whose teachings ought to influence the shape and mission of the Church. He spoke lots about mission, about incarnation, about cultural engagement. At one level that might be fine and good…and I don’t mean to cast judgment on another based simply on my perception… but should not our teaching, preaching, service and leadership be more about a person than the idea of a person?
Perhaps I am just splitting hairs but consider Matthew 1:23 during this advent season, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). The message of the celebrated Christmas story is of God to be near, once again, to the people whom he created. This isn’t a story of a new philosophy or paradigm but rather the very personal nature of God attempting to restore a broken humanity through the person of Jesus.
The other significant celebration of Christians world-wide is Easter – the resurrection of Jesus. This celebration is of the risen Christ who is not dead in a grave but who is alive, who is near to us through the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), who is accessible to every person on the planet…even apart from the organized church and religious practices. These latter two can help but also hinder if they are more about an idea than the person of Jesus.
So in my own teaching and preaching I think I am a little closer to communicating the person of Jesus over the idea of Jesus…
…when he is actually more than an idea in my own life and has become (and is becoming) the central person in my life.
…when my desire for my listeners is more for their ability to connect personally and deeply with Jesus rather than get on board with whatever project or mandate that is connected with the organization in which I serve.
…when I call people to the person who has a mission and not a mission that has a person. Our mission is the mission of Jesus. Without him we have no mission. Without his personally indwelling we have no hope in this mission.
…when people come away from my ‘talks’ more motivated to get to know the person of Jesus than they are inspired to ‘live missionally.” The latter emerges from the former.
…when I am less concerned with the affirmation of others in my public speaking and more desirous to learn of any effect it might have had on their pursuit of Immanuel.
…when I overtly and regularly invite people to take steps towards establishing a deeper and more meaningful relationship with the God who created them and the person of Jesus who loves them and sees their life as worthy of his attention and compassion.
So I want to stop preaching about Jesus and simply preach Jesus. I don’t think I always get this right…but gratefully the person of Jesus is patient with me.
“…but we preach Christ crucified…” 1 Corinthians 1:23