December 9, 2011

Strong Language

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Anyone who turns on a television in the next year is sure to see the ever-so-elegantly dressed politicians making speech after speech, holding debate after debate, all promising to “get America back on track” or screaming “this country needs a president who will (insert grandiose promise here).” Only a few viewing minutes are necessary to understand that speech communication is everything. Politicians are known for their ability to essentially say nothing at all, while making it sound as grand as ever. To say most of them have mastered communication would be an understatement! Many times, our only impression of them will be from these encounters, so crafty, persuasive communication is essential.  But no one expects anything different from politicians. After all, they are trying to get votes.
However, change the scene for a moment from a nationally televised political debate to a Sunday morning worship service. There should be a distinct difference, right?

Nobody is trying to manipulate anyone for their votes; nobody is trying to persuade others with promises of change, or an increase in job opportunities, or a brilliantly proposed plan to finally bring our country out of enormous debt. Yet, sadly many of our churches look very similar. They are full of well-versed speakers who know how, when, and what to say in order to keep the masses entertained and comfortable. Unfortunately, the similarities don’t just stop here. Often times, they are forced to “play by the rules” of the “party” in which they belong. You don’t often see a Democrat treated too well for voting on a bill proposed by the Republicans. Likewise, in the world of Christianity, a Baptist joining up with a Pentecostal . . . wait, I can almost sense them fighting just by placing them in the same sentence! They are forced to stay within a certain framework of beliefs or they are usually ousted. Regardless, the similarities between some of today’s preachers and politicians are staggeringly similar. Crafty speech, spiffy dress, and short leashes.

So now back to my original point. This article really has nothing to do with slinging mud at politicians or talking about Baptists and Pentecostals. The crux of the matter deals with the verse mentions earlier. When Stephen spoke, his powerful speech wasn’t found from mastering speech communication, but from the power and wisdom of God. As ministers of God, it is time to stop believing our influence comes from how well we speak, but how much the power of God flows through when we speak.  If it sounds like a fantasy, take this passage to heart. They could not resist the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke! There is a place we can get where our preaching draws crowds not because of great illustrations, clever communication skills, and polished three point sermons. In today’s church, we are not short on these things. Many of our pastor’s are schooled in the art of communication and can cleverly pull the right strings to draw crowds.

But if you want the power that draws people to you, or to the Power in you, God wants to show you it is truly available.  The flip side to this can be seen in this passage as well. Stephen was so full of power, wisdom, and Spirit that his words had influence . . . such influence that it lead to his martyrdom. But it was not this stale, status quo, “well church was good today, preacher made me laugh a few times” mentality that is all too prevalent in the church culture of today. Ask the Lord to bring influence that only he can bring. Influence that draws lines in the sand and screams, as a close friend of our ministry says, “God is ratcheting things up.” Time is too precious to keep wasting. If the Lord has placed you in a position of influence, start doing just that-influencing people by the power and presence of God that can flow out of you daily. Ask the Lord to fill you with the same Spirit, power, and wisdom that made Stephen’s words meaningful enough for the writer of Acts to say “they were not able to resist the wisdom or the Spirit by which he spoke.”

 

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