Empathy

In preaching at different churches you quickly begin to identify with the church and the struggles of the different individuals in the church. It affects the sermons and it affects the preacher when he prays for people. This sense I get when I preach I compare to God’s sense “who knows our anxieties”. And just as I will try and preach in such a way to touch upon issues of the heart, responding to the people coming to hear me preach, I know God does so much more when people respond or call out to God. So much of my job is to convince people to reach out and “touch the hem of His garment” and that he knows all about what is going on and will be able to help a person who looks to Him.

 

A young man from the church took me out for a burrito last night after church along with the pastor and some other young men. He was the son of one of the families in church. He had joined the Marines and now was working on helicopters at Edward’s Air Force Base. He talked about going to Boot Camp saved and how it helped him minister to people. Boot Camp takes away all of the fronts that allow the Marines to shape a man into the Marine he needs to be. It also is the perfect time, minus all of the identity games, for a person to hear the gospel and pray. Danny shared preaching opportunities that have followed him from coast to coast as a Marine and probably to Iraq in the future.

 

At one point he was allowed to attend chapel services with his fellow soldiers. The sermon was a little lukewarm. The next week it was the same sermon, so he asked the chaplain if he could have some time in the service the next week. The chaplain agreed and all week he prayed and prepared a short sermon. The next Sunday came and he preached his heart out and held an altar call. The chaplain was awe-struck as 17 soldiers raised their hands and came forward to pray.

 

What I enjoyed most about this story was the chaplain’s reaction. He could have been offended. He could have taken this as a personal shot against his ministry. But, instead he joined with the excitement of the moment (“he who is not with Me is against Me”) announced a Baptism service the very next Sunday. Many of us in ministry get stuck in our ruts forgetting that we carry the words of life and that these words are powerful (“to the discerning of the heart”). 

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About hansston

Pastor a church in Sparta.
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