Preaching is warfare. It sounds outlandish to some, but if you preach or are close to a communicator, you know the truth of that statement.
I was reminded this recently at Revolution that when a pastor steps up to preach, they are stepping into battle. I know this, I’ve felt it before, but have felt the heat turn up recently as we prepare to move as a church. A good description of what is going on when a pastor preaches is found in Paul David Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling:
Every worship service is a glory war. The question of the gathering is, will the hearts of this group of poeple be captured by the one glory that truly is glorious or by the shadow glories of the created world?
I know when I preach, I am addressing the single lady who has set her heart upon the affection of a certain young man whom she thinks will deliver to her the happiness she has been craving. Sitting before me is the teenager who can’t think beyond the glories of Facebook, Twitter, and the Portal2 video game. In the congregation is the middle-aged man whose heart is captured by the glory of somehow, someway recapturing his youth. A wife is sitting there wondering if she will ever experience the glory of the kind of marriage that she dreamed about, the kind she knows others have. A man sits in the crowd knowing that he feeds his soul almost daily on the dark and distorted glories of pornography and has become a master at shifting spiritual gears. Some listening are more excited about a new outfit, new home, new car, new shotgun, newly sodden lawn, the opening of a new restaurant, a new vacation site, or that new promotion than they are about the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Of those who have gathered for worship, there are those distracted by grief, anger, discouragement, loneliness, envy, frustration, despair, or hopelessness because the glories that they have looked to for their meaning, purpose, and inner happiness have failed them once again. These glories have proven to be more temporary than they thought they would ever be. They have been more elusive than they seemed at a distance. They have blown up in their faces or dripped like sand through their fingers. And even when they were wonderful to experience, they didn’t, in fact, leave their hearts satisfied. The buzz was short and the satisfaction elusive. So they sit there empty, hurt, angry, and confused.
They come into worship in the middle of a war that they probably don’t recognize. It is a war for the allegiance, the worship, of their hearts. In ways they probably don’t understand, they have again and again asked the creation to give them what only the Creator can provide. They have looked horizontally again and again for what can only be found vertically. They have asked people, situations, locations, and experiences to be the one thing they will never be: their Savior.They have looked to these things to give them life, security, identity, and hope. They have asked these things to heal their broken hearts. They have hoped that these things would make them better people. So a war rages, and wounded soldiers sit before you. It is a glory war, a battle for what glory will rule their hearts and in so doing, control their choices, words, and behaviors.