"They began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they spent a long time with the disciples." Acts 14:27-28
The early preachers spent their time bragging on God, and encouraging people to walk through doors He alone opened for them. They spent a great time with the people they were leading to faith in Christ. This was their recipe for creating a depth of understanding, in what the people were hearing preached, and a depth in personal relationships the people were having with the preachers. These two things are always a great combination.
Today the mega church pastor or TV preacher is held up as the glorified spiritual guru. There is no interaction, no accountability, but a great deal of hero worship. Question: Who comes to visit you when you are in the hospital, when you have lost your job, or there is a death in your family? That person is your preacher.
There is a misconception that the longer you spend time getting to know one another, the more you will love one another. Not necessarily. Sometimes the more you get to know someone, the more you find out about them, and each discovery of fresh knowledge makes you hate the very person you once loved.
One out of two marriages end in divorce in this country. The average length of service for a youth minister in a local church is one year. The average length of stay of a pastor is two years. Apparently it doesn't take contemporary church people long to get to know one another, or to get enough of one another.
The sermon topic of the early preachers was, "Look at God." When the sermon topic of the contemporary preacher becomes "Look at Me" find another church. When your preacher is always the hero of all of his own stories, and there is little air left in his lungs to praise God, take a deep breath and run for the exit.
There is nothing wrong with preaching that tells "all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith." The problem begins when a preacher forgets his place in God's order of importance. God is the hand, the preacher is the glove. God inserts his hand, and the glove moves with power. God removes His hand, and the glove is lifeless. Jesus said, "Apart from Me, you can do nothing." He meant it. Preachers! Never forget it.
God opens doors. People walk through doors. Anytime people stop walking through the doors of your church, check the message and the messenger. Praising oneself, for personal accomplishments is first cousin to taking credit for what God has done. Don't do it unless you have the strength to sustain what God has initiated. If you can't finish, what God starts then don't hint that you had anything to do with it.
Note to self: He did it. You didn't. You can't. Don't start.
"He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles." This is a phrase that reminds me of how close I came to missing out on what God had in store for me. The Jews were the chosen people. They were meant to be a light to the Gentiles. They forgot their place. They forgot to shine, but basked in the glory of being chosen. Thankfully, through Jesus, God widened the arc of The Light to include Gentiles, and that eventually included me.
I do not share the honor or the distinction of having Jewish blood flow through Me. All I am and ever hope to be is the result of having the blood of Jesus flow over me. His blood purchased my pardon, and folded me into the family of God.
When God opened the door for me, in February 1957, with childlike faith in Jesus, I walked through it. I became a son of Abraham, by faith, not by birth or by works. I was not born into the family of God, and I did not work my way into it. Through faith in Christ, I was reborn into it. Thank God.
The first step a person takes toward Jesus is counted as a step of faith. The early preachers were willing to take a long walk with people they invited to step through the door God opened for them. We should too.
In this long walk, praying and sustaining go hand in hand. Praying for people who are on a long journey sustains their strength and courage for it. It also keep a preacher from being annoyed by the very people he is leading. Never underestimate the power of a praying preacher to turn annoying people into anointed ones.
Praying releases the sustaining power of God's Spirit, and under-girds and strengthens preachers and people, no matter how heavy the load or how long the road. You never really know someone until you travel with them. The journey begins when people walk through the door, it won't last long without praying with them and for them.
Prayer turns an annoyed preacher into a an anointed one, and an interruption into a divine appointment. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
"Discernment is given for intercession, never fault-finding." Oswald Chambers