The James MacDonald White Paper: “How Would Jesus Preach?” Post 7 of 20
Though New Calvinists mock the question, what would Jesus do? they really should ask themselves that question more often. The following sermon by James MacDonald will undoubtedly go down in church history as THE crybaby sermon of the ages. Would Jesus preach a sermon like this one? Five things he wanted us to know about how much of a burden ministry was to Him? Instructions on how to approach Him and when? Really? What words could explain how unlike Christ this sermon is? What is in the water in Illinois?
Voice file and transcript download are found in bottom right side panel.
We don’t have a ton of time here, and so let me kind of jump into this. I’m starting here, five things your pastor wants you to know but can’t tell you. About as serious as I can be about this, I really, really doubt that a single pastor here would come and say, “Wow, you missed that.”
Here they are, five things your pastor wants you to know but can’t tell you. Number 1, or number 5, I’ll count it down. Number 5, preaching well is a crushing weight, and you’ll never really understand, and you can’t help me. I tried to write about this in the book Vertical Church, and I just really – the closest thing I’ve ever come to it is if you remember exam week in college, but imagine instead that the most important people in the world are coming to hear you answer the questions on the exam, and it’s gonna be a different exam every week, and none of them have to take the test; they just have to listen to you take the test. It’s only a bit like what it’s like. Then you introduce the whole element of spiritual warfare and the things that come crashing down on your house on Friday and Saturday almost every week. And if you’re one of those preachers, and I hope you are, who can’t get up in the pulpit unless things are right in his heart, in his family, in his life as much as we can make it with others, I mean, it’s just a crushing weight.
And then what makes it worse is we live in a society where consumers quickly become critics. So everybody goes to a restaurant, they have 50 thoughts on how this restaurant could do this better. All you do is eat food, man. You can’t make pancakes, and you have all these thoughts about what makes a good restaurant. It’s just that much more so in a church. Everyone receives the sermon. So after you’ve heard a couple hundred sermons, you kind of think you know a good one; you know a bad one. That’s probably true, but you couldn’t fix it. How about you’re up next week? No, no, no, I don’t want that. Or the guy who does want that is not able to maybe even understand how to do that. I just think it would create a lot of compassion for your preacher if you would just embrace preaching well as a crushing weight and you’ll never understand and you can’t really help me. Preachers can’t help preachers. But people who don’t actually make, and honestly, some of the things they say to try to be helpful are not that helpful. And it’s way, way easier said than done.
And we’re doing all weekend to help our – I’ll tell you what helps me. Encouragement helps me. Hearing some practical application of how my best effort affected your life for the good, that helps me. Praying for me helps me immensely. But if we would kind of turn down our sense of – and then it’s worth it. Listen all these guys on the radio, I hate the radio preachers. So then they’re always compared to the other guy and – I think enough said on that.
Five things your pastor would tell you, wants you to know but can’t tell you. Number 4, I’m not puffed up needing accountability. I’m way down needing support. I’m not inflated and puffed up needing accountability. I’m way down needing support. I can’t tell you how many times through the years, especially in the last ten years, I’ll get finally a conversation when someone has been attending our church for a while and they’ll say, “I’m really praying for you that you don’t get a big head.” That is such a smack down, and it shows such a completely fundamental misunderstanding of what it’s like to pastor a church. It’s related to seeing things but not feeling the weight of things.
So I walk into a worship center exactly like this on a Sunday morning like I’ll do this weekend and I feel too many heads turn and see me. I see a visitor lean to somebody and elbow them and point to him or have that crazy experience of insane people with phone cameras wanting their picture of you. That’s a – by the way, I’ve done that this week happily. That’s a complete loss, okay? I hate having my picture taken. And it goes even worse if you don’t do it. Ooh, can’t have your picture taken. Whoa, aren’t you big time. There’s just no way out of that hallway, okay? Just no way. I’d love to. Thank you. And then of course I don’t know why everyone has a camera now, but they don’t work like they used to because we’re up here like forever going like this, and the thing the pastor has to think about is not the generally wonderfully kind innocent people that want the picture taken. It’s the hundreds of people around the room that they’re oblivious to that are watching you get your picture taken and forming assumptions about your motive that couldn’t be further from reality. You watch it and you see and you think things that aren’t true.
I can just tell you from myself, and then I believe this would be true of your pastor, of course, I battle pride like everyone does. But I have found ministry and preaching to be a crushing weight driving that out of my life, not certainly some massive inflation. It never occurs to me to come to my church or to come to Harvest Bible fellowship, I’ve never had the look what I have done thought. I never have that thought. I have how much longer can I do this? This is a massive weight of responsibility to bear. I will account to Jesus Christ for all of this. As Paul said, I’ll read what Paul said. He said, “And besides all this, the care of the churches, and who is sufficient for these things?” So I think it’s hard sometimes to get that through to your own elders, and I want to be helpful on accountability. I do believe that elders should hold the senior pastor accountable. I believe that. Turn to your neighbors and say he believes that.
But elders that walk around with the capital A heavy-duty, ,”I’m there to hold you accountable, accountable, make you accountable, all right?” That’s a control move, all right? That’s a control move, and it’s rooted in pride, okay? And it’s not the senior pastor’s job. I’m sorry that you’re not happy with your career, but it’s not my job to make you feel significant by folding my full-time ministry under your ten-hour week volunteer opportunity, okay? That’s not my job. I love you and thankful for you. It goes well when we work together. And I’m willing, this is our elder board. Every month we have this book that comes out, and it says on the front, “Accounting to the Elders.” So we – let me tell you something. We account for the elders about everything that’s going on in this church, and I believe in it. I believe in it. But the pastor doesn’t need this constant referencing of we hold them accountable.
Teach the church to love the pastor and support the pastor and pray for the pastor. And like any good couple would do, one of the things that I love about my wife, Kathy, and there are many things – let me tell you something. My family knows it. Publicly, I mean, Kathy is little house on the prairie. Privately, she is a force to reckon with, okay? And my family is going, “For real. For real. For real.” That’s a great model for wives, for elders. Privately, you can lay it down as much as it’s needed, to protect him, to help him. But publicly, you don’t need to inflate your role and flex your accountability muscles in any public way of your doing your job. You can do that in private. And it’s needed. Everyone say it’s needed. But focus on the support and the encouragement and the affirmation. I was the biggest problem in this church. I did not know Kent was gonna graciously encourage and honor me in that way. But I will just say that for probably the first 15 years of our church, I led poorly. I was more concerned about the harsh person who would resent public appreciation that I was able to see that we all needed to be appreciated. Turn to your neighbor and say, “I need it.” Okay. We all needed that.
And the Scripture is very clear that the elder is worthy of honor or a double honor in the case of the one who works hard at preaching and teaching. And how many churches in America today find their pastors struggling, even failing in some regards but are not aware of how they have failed to honor him and support him and encourage him and pray for him. It isn’t just that the pastor makes the church, and he does. The pastor makes the church, but the church makes the pastor. You understand that? You are making your man of God in your church. You are making him. He is your project, to love and encourage and forebear and stand with and pray for the wisdom to mix the ingredients that are needed to keep him in balance and not so much tossed up needing accountability, as I’m weighed down needing support spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially.
Five things your pastor wants you to know but can’t tell you. Number 3, I’m not perfect. I need pastoring. But timing is everything. And loving on my wife and kids is loving me. Okay. I’m not perfect, and I do need pastoring. But timing is everything. I got home to my house last night after a second 14-hour day marathon in a row. My brother David is here. He came into my office. I was in a coma. He was like, “Hey, hey, how are you doing?” I was like, “Ugh?” He said, “Well, let’s go and talk about ministry. Tell me how you’re doing personally.” “Ugh.” I barely remember the conversation. I asked him this morning, “Did I curse at you?” I was just exhausted, and of course a good night’s sleep and the Lord is gracious.
Timing is everything. So often people burden the pastor with their needs to give him something, and they’re not sensitive to the timing, and the giving becomes another burden. Don’t talk to your preacher between his office and his first sermon of the weekend. Do not speak to him. He has to cram for a final exam. His head is about to explode. If you bump him, he’ll lose half of it, and he’s already afraid. Do not talk to him. Am I telling the truth? Here are those pastors who say amen. Furthermore, if there’s a problem that needs to be dealt with, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Not Friday, not Saturday, for sure not Sunday, and worse of all Monday, right? Mondays are the days that pastors once or twice a month write their resignation and pray for the courage to crumple it up. All right? Okay. Mondays are good days to send flowers to his wife, mail a gift card that will arrive that day when – read the life of Elijah. When you have poured it out and have nothing left, you need recovery time. And Satan will put nonsense in the head of a well-meaning elder and church member, and the poor thing, “Monday he’s got a whole week to get this figured out. Monday is the perfect day to talk to him.” Wow. That’s really, really not good thinking. And I’m trying to be – what was my word? I hope that’s helpful.
Loving on my wife and kids is loving me. And I’m so thankful that my three children and my two children-in-love, I would say. I have a son-in-love and a daughter-in-love and all five our kids love us and love the Lord. And humanly speaking, I would attribute that kindness to a loving church family. You are loving your pastor when you love his family. That’s a really, really – a great, great blessing.
Number 2, I secretly wish that these two verses were my elders’ favorite verses. They’re not my life verse, but I wish that my elders had these two verses for their favorites. One’s from the pastoral epistles where it says, “Reject a factious man after the second admonition.” I wish that that was my elders’ life verse. How much heartache is caused in a church by elders that forebear for the sake of friendship with a factious man. Reject the factious man after the second admonition. Now reject him doesn’t mean he has to sit halfway back, okay? Rejecting means you can’t come here anymore. Well, I’m sorry. Okay, that means you get to go to a different church. Reject. Do I need to spell that out? Why? Why? Why? That’s so cold. It’s so wise. How much heartache I could have saved our church over the last two decades if I had lowered my expectation, of my ability to change the behavior of others and raise my expectation that people will be as they have been? A factious man is danger to the church and you are released by Scripture to release him. And I’m releasing you to take a small portion of your church’s budget, build a catapult, put it in the church parking lot, and load it regularly. I think we can shoot this one right out of our county. All right?
Five things your pastor wants you to know but can’t tell you. I wish that my elders’ life verse was reject the factious man after the second admonition, and I wish their other life’s verse from Proverbs was “Cast out your scoffer and strife will cease.” I wish my elders loved that verse. How often I have been in the position of having to cast out the scoffer? How often I’ve had to come to staff members and say, “You haven’t dealt with this yet?” and have to push them to do the thing that should have been done earlier when less damage and collateral impact and confusion even to the person. Sometimes mercy creates a gap between the failure and the catapult and causes confusion in the heart of the person as to why they’re flying out of the church, okay? Sooner, sooner consensus among the elders, not next Thursday, today. Go over now. You can’t be here anymore. I’m sorry. You can’t be here anymore. I don’t owe you a why, but I can read a couple of verses to you that recently I attended a conference where these verses became my favorites.
I love our pastors. Amen? I love our pastors, and I want them supported and encouraged and surrounded. You make your pastor. And one of the ways that you will make him everything that God wants him to be is don’t let him waste his time and energy on draining difficult, harsh, never satisfied scoffers, factious men.
Five things your pastor wants you to know but can’t tell you. Number 1, enduring commitment and assurance – or maybe a better way to say it, assurance of enduring commitment brings peace of mind. In John chapter 6, Jesus was teaching them about this and said, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” Of course you know what that means. That wasn’t easy for them to hear. “This is the bread that comes down from heaven,” he said. Interesting. When many of us disciples heard it, they said – this is when many of us disciples heard it, they were actual disciples of his, not the crowd. When do we get that food again, disciples? When many of us disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?” But Jesus knowing in himself the disciples were grumbling about this and he kind of interacts with them, then the Scripture tells us that they – after this many of us disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
How many people had to happen in your church where something that needed to happen happened and people were upset about it? Put your hand up if that’s happened in your church. Right. Some of you just, what? Tired with the arm? Tired… tired ….? How many people had that happen in their church? All right. If you’ve ever wondered what your pastor’s thinking in that moment when Bill and Sheila, they don’t come to the church anymore, or did you hear about the Cartwrights, they’re not in our church anymore? Did you hear about that? Did you hear about how they left and moved back to the Ponderosa or wherever they’re from? Did you hear about how they’re gone now? Gilligan and his friends are back on the island and they’re gone. How does the pastor feel about that when that happens? Well, look at how Jesus felt after this many disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
The thing that keeps the pastor awake is not ultimately the people who left but how they’re gonna affect the people who have stayed and will they be leaving too. That’s what the pastor fears. We tried to do the right thing. We didn’t do it perfectly. We’re not Jesus. We did the best we could. Yeah, I do some things differently, but we’re learning and now some people just gave up on us and they left. What keeps him awake is the knowledge that they’re still talking to people in our church. I don’t have a relationship with them anymore, but you all seem to be able to socialize with them. I’m really the only person who’s out. Are you gonna leave too? Are you gonna leave too? We lost a couple of churches from our fellowship. I met with some of the key pastors here. Because as sad as that is, I needed to be assured that the many, many, many good men in our fellowship are still with me, are still with us. That’s what I needed to hear. I really encourage you to jot a little note to your pastor and say, “I am with you. I am with you. I’m with you heart and soul. You can count on me. We’re not going anywhere. We love you. We believe in what God’s doing in your heart.” He will become the person that you’re praying he will be through your encouragement to be that person. How many people here can honestly say the transforming influence in my life has been the people who hated me? Man, if God had just put more hateful people in my life I could have learned so much. We learn from people that love us. Sometimes they have to love us enough to tell us the truth. That’s all good. But it’s in the context of you can count on me, I’m with you, I’m not going anywhere, we’re in this together.
Five things your pastor wants you to know but can’t tell you. Number 1, assurance of enduring commitment gives the gift of peace of mind. And if you think your pastor’s not wondering about you during a tough season, trust me, he is. I hope that’s helpful.
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