The Delivery

"Having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement." Acts 15:31

The Book of Acts provides many brief glimpses into the life of the early church. Those interested in restoring 1st Century Christianity, or capturing the essence of the ancient church would do well to douse the candles and put the spotlight on God's Word. Dimming the lights, lighting a few candles and going acoustical, can be refreshing. But missing the real message of the Book of Acts, is like stepping over dollar bills to pick up nickles. It leads to just another form of pious posing. Deliver the mail, not the ambiance.

Note to self: Worship styles are like stationery. No matter what style of stationery you choose, don't forget to deliver the mail.

The early shepherds were not above gathering the sheep. Many preachers believe they are called to preach, but they just can't be bothered with the effort it takes to gather. They value their study time, their family time, their free time, their workout time, their me time, and fill their week with many worthy activities. The early preachers knew they didn't have much of a message, if no one showed up to hear it. They "gathered the congregation together." Go thou and do likewise.

The early shepherds "delivered the mail." Karl Malone, former star in the NBA for 18 years, and one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game, was nicknamed "The Mail Man." Malone delivered what his team needed, over and over again. POINTS. Interesting point. Many of these points came after he had been fouled. He still holds the record for the most free throws attempted and made. He played a contact sport.

Preachers deal in the same assets, and know the bumps and bruises that come from playing and praying a full contact game. They always have a few points to make, preferably only three, and they are always on the clock. Unfortunately, few sermons are worthy of Overtime. But I digress.

Word-smithed oratory, self-righteous rhetoric, and technical wizardry are a glorified form of dribbling the ball around the basket, without ever making the shot. Preacher! Stop dribbling. Take the shot. Make it count. Deliver the mail. Make your point. The team needs you to step it up.

"They read it." The test of a preacher is the text of the sermon. Many preachers fill the air with references to authors and quotes of books that fall way outside the realm of Genesis to Revelation. These are well-intentioned efforts to prove study has been made, a library is being built, and the flavor of the week has been consumed. Stop it. Read The Book. Preach the Word. Stay on message. Don't edit "The Script." The Word of God is still the best source for the greatest joy, in this world. Tis the Season. Bring joy to the world.

"They rejoiced because of its encouragement." The letter delivered a great message. The encouragement of the letter, from believers in one city to believers in another. is a classic reminder to preachers that the content of their message is not complete, until joy and encouragement are contained in it.

Joy is that over-riding confidence provided by The Spirit of God. Joy relies on faith in the fact that God is in control, in the midst of a world that is out of control. Joy is a calm assurance of the love of God, in a world that is designed to rob a person of their memory. Constant concussions and crises cause them to forget that they are children, loved by God, The Father, and The Son will never leave them or forsake them. Great preaching brings great joy.

Encouragement is translated from two words, "para klesis." It is the source for the very name Jesus gave to the Holy Spirit, as The Comforter, or The Paraclete. The Spirit of God is The Encourager. The Blue Letter Bible provides a detailed look at the meaning of a word that is much needed in the church today. It means...

a calling near, summons, (esp. for help)

importation, supplication, entreaty

exhortation, admonition, encouragement

consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment

thus of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)

persuasive discourse, stirring address

instructive, admonitory, conciliatory, powerful hortatory discourse

OK. That may be way over the top, but encouragement means more than HAPPY! HAPPY! HAPPY! No disrespect intended. Prayer calls out to The Encourager, The Comforter to come along-side as The Helper, The Advocate, and The Spirit transforms fearful believers into faithful disciples.

Praying preachers provide, "persuasive discourse, and stirring addresses" that point people to prayer as their means to be filled with The Fruit of The Spirit, joy. They remind them of their heritage, as children of God, and infuse in them the courage to take their stand next to The Champion, Jesus Christ.

The fearful are not prone to be faithful. They rarely take a stand, unless it is in the tall grass. They hide from the world, when they fail to abide in Christ. People are either hiding or abiding. They either have the courage to stand, or they live life on the run. Preachers are called to deliver a message that transform the fearful into the faithful.

The infusion of courage into the congregation, comes from praying preachers reminding praying people of God's grace. God's grace and favor provide His children with the stamina and sense of direction to run the race, to the finish line. Are you hiding or abiding. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!