Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I Feel Like the Preacher Targeted Me in His Sermon

People often tell me on Sunday mornings after the service that the sermon was specifically for them.  Jokingly and affectionately they will say things like, “You’ve been reading my mail” or “someone must’ve told you about me” or, on more serious note, “the Lord was really speaking to me today."

My response is always the same, “Only God’s Word can do that.”

And it's true.  Only God's Word can expose the motives and intentions of the heart (see Hebrews 4:12).

But for some, they feel like the preacher targeted them.  That he crafted his entire sermon about them and directed it to them.  (As if they are the focus of his attention and efforts).  

Here’s my response:

Don’t personalize everything that’s preached.  Obviously, every pastor teaches with the hope that everyone will take the message personally and apply it to his or her own life.  “If the shoe fits, wear it” is what we want people to do.

However, there are always a few in the congregation who think the minister has specifically targeted them in his sermon.  This is a common misunderstanding which causes people to get hurt.

Feelings of being targeted may occur if persons are (1) under conviction about a particular matter, (2) especially self-conscious or narcissistic, (3) under emotional distress, (4) if they have spent time in counseling sessions with the pastor, (5) if he has previously corrected them on some matter.

Keep in mind, a pulpit teacher does not focus his attention solely upon one person.  His concern is for the broad ranges of people in attendance.

Occasionally people think their pastor focuses on them in the same way they focus on him.  For instance, when a pastor stands in front of a congregation week after week, they develop a feeling of close friendship with him – they come to know personal details of his life, his family, and others traits.  However, even if the pastor knows each person in his flock, it’s not really possible for him to concentrate on each person with the same detail as they do on him.  It’s easy to for dozens of people to know him well, but not realistic for him to know dozens in the same way.  Consequently, they develop the illusion that the pastor focuses on them when he preaches – that he remembers their personal details in the same way they remember his. 

But the pastor has too many other people to consider.

He counsels with dozens of people, and hears scores of other similar problems and details.  It’s unlikely he will single someone out and preach at them, while trying to minister to the whole congregation.  If there is something specific the pastor needs to say only to you, he will do it; he will deliver it to you personally, in private.

And neither should he avoid certain topics just because he happens to know the details of people’s lives.   God’s Word should be taught without fear or favoritism.

Besides this, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to personalize God’s Word to every member in the Body of Christ so that we will examine ourselves and search our own hearts.  When the Lord is dealing with us about His Word, it might seem like the pastor is speaking directly to us, when in fact it is the Holy Spirit .

The best attitude to have is to listen to each message objectively.  In every sermon (that comes from the Bible), God has something to say to us all.  Be open to whatever the Lord would say, and willing to accept His correction or guidance.  Defensiveness is usually as sign of resistance to conviction.

As challenging as it may seem sometimes, the church is God’s plan for His people, and it is in the context of community and corporate worship that God will develop and mature you into a fully equipped disciple.  

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