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




Does Jesus Have Your Attention!

How do you defme "preacher?" One wag said, "A preacher is a man who talks in other people's sleep." Sometimes true. Question is, whose fault is that? Is the preacher and sermon always that sad and bad and boring? Does a low level of interest in the sermon automatically mean the preacher and his sermon should get an"F"? I am a preacher, and I know some people sleep while I preach. Alas! There are times when it seems to me I am asleep while I preach! It reminds me of a preacher, a doctor, and a lawyer who were hunting together. Several shots rang out at the same time. A deer fell, but they couldn't agree on whose shot had killed the animal. They agreed to let an outside party settle the dispute. A local farmer examined the dead animal and quickly said, "It's plain to see the preacher's shot killed the deer." This announcement greatly agitated the lawyer and doctor and they demanded, "How can you be so sure?" The farmer replied without hesitation, "Because. . . .the bullet went in one ear and out the other."

Some critics of sermons tend to lay all the onus for interest level during the sermon on the speaker. We don't like boring preachers! We want them to be polished and prepared and powerful and we want sermons to be "interesting." We think preachers ought to "hold our attention." My point here is not that preachers have no responsibility in communicating God's word. Of course they do. That responsibility is summed up in the familiar line from Paul to the young preacher Timothy, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:2). But Paul goes on to warn that sometimes the problem is not the speaker's mouth but the listeners' ears (see 2 Timothy 4:3-4). Whether the preacher tells stories and illustrations or doesn't, whether he uses Powerpoint or his points seem powerless, whether he preaches 25 minutes or 45, whether he is monotone or multi-tone, whether he is "interesting" to listen to or high and dry — ultimately, none of these is the critical issue. The big issue is, does he preach God's truth, and am I interested in it? Have we forgotten what gospel preaching is all about? It is not about being entertained. And it's certainly not about whether or not I like everything about the preacher and his personality and his sermons. I am not denying that preachers and preaching can be boring. But God and His Son and the Gospel never are! A grilled-to perfection T-bone steak is not boring, even when the one who cooks it is! I don't have to like the cook in order to enjoy the steak. I do have to like steak and be hungry! In the book of Hebrews an inspired man wrote to some Christians who were getting bored with church and sermons and Jesus. Part of his inspired corrective to the situation is found in Hebrews 2:1 (New American Standard) — For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." If sermons are a bore and Bible reading a chore, the preacher may not be the real problem. Could it be you are drifting away from Christ? Jesus always deserves your closest attention, even if the preacher doesn't. Does Jesus have your attention?

Dan Gulley,
Smithville church of Christ