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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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COWARDS IN THE PULPIT

John Wayne is credited with saying that courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway. By that definition the apostle Paul must have been a very brave man. In 1' Corinthians 2:3, he penned a confession we aren't accustomed to hearing preachers make — "I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling." Not only are we not accustomed to hearing preachers make that kind of confession, we don't want them to make that kind of confession. When was the last time you heard of a congregation or a pulpit search committee looking for a preacher who confessed to being weak, fearful, and shaking life a leaf every time he got up to preach? Ever heard a church member brag about the local preacher, "You'll just love Bro. Dan. He's so weak and frail and fearful in the pulpit — please come and hear him preach!" No. We want preachers who are strong, fearless, confident, assured, and assuring. Read Acts 13, 14, 16, and 17 and you'll gain insight as to what Paul's fear and trembling was about. He preached at a time and in places in history when gospel preaching was a high risk activity. The story of the cross had not yet become so routine and the preaching of it so perfunctory that people yawned and passed notes and clipped their finger nails and kept one eye on their watch while the gospel was being proclaimed. People who heard Paul preach were left either mad, sad, or glad. What they were not left was alone or the same. Paul enjoyed much success in preaching, and we commonly view him as one of (if not the most) fearless and faithful preacher who ever lived. What he had to say almost always stirred and moved people to action, some to loathe him and some to love him. When they didn't like the truth he proclaimed, sometimes they ran him out of town or threw stones at him or beat him up or threw him into jail. As he preached the story of the cross in the proud, worldly-wise, self-sufficient and pro-sin city of Corinth, it caused him to feel weak and afraid. But Paul was no coward. He mounted the pulpit anyway. Acts 18:11 tells us he was there 18 months, and verse 8 says "many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized." So, God can use a weak, fearful preacher — if he has courage to preach anyway.

Let me confess something to you. Most of us who preach feel weak and afraid, or at least we ought to, as we contemplate the awesome task of preaching the gospel of Christ and the issues that are at stake, for ourselves and for our listeners. So, pray for gospel preachers — not that they will not be afraid, but that they will have courage to stand up and preach the truth even when they are.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ