Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Check Your Ears

By Joe Chesser

    Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It takes two to speak the truth – one to speak, and another to hear.”  In a similar vein of thought, Walt Whitman said, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences.”
    Most preachers and teachers take their job of sharing the truth of God’s word very seriously.  They work hard at selecting and preparing the lessons they present.  And that’s what we should expect from them.  We should want preachers who are trained and well grounded.  We want preachers and teachers to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2) and to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).  Yet, what we often hear in the pulpits and class rooms across the nation and around the world has little to do with the word of God.  In its place are instructive and entertaining presentations on politics, economics, psychology, and current events.  Audiences love it, but God is not in it.
    Who’s at fault – the preachers or the audiences?  Actually, both are.  Preachers need to “preach the word” whether the audiences want to hear it or not.  Or, as Paul put it, “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).  The purpose of preaching and teaching is to help the audience confront God and His expectations of them as the scriptures reveal. This involves correcting, rebuking and encouraging (2 Timothy 4:2).  Audiences may not want it, but they certainly need it.
   As a general rule, audiences prefer things that “tickle their ears” (2 Timothy 4:3). Because of that, audiences share the blame for preaching and teaching that satisfies, but doesn’t nourish, feels good, but doesn’t help them draw closer to God.  Audiences will demand that they hear what they want to hear. And if they don’t, the speaker will be presented with the ultimatum, “Tell us what we want to hear, or we will find someone who will!”
    But, even if the preacher or teacher is presenting sound doctrine, as Thoreau expressed, the truth has to be heard.  Great audiences not only demand that truth be taught, they also understand that they have the responsibility to actually listen to it. While audiences should expect lessons to be well prepared and presented, the preachers and teachers should expect their audiences to be well prepared to hear the word of God.  No matter how good the lessons are, if people don’t have “ears to hear,” it does little good. Jesus spoke of people whose hearts were calloused as people who “hardly hear with their ears,” as people who won’t allow God to heal them (Matthew 13:14-16).  Audiences need to let God speak to them through preachers and teachers no matter what style of teacher he may be.  Great audiences, great listeners come prepared to learn.  If you are not “getting anything out of the classes and sermons,” you might want to check your ears.

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.cofcfruitland.com/ 

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