The world has been blessed by God with some great preachers, who have been able to move people over land and sea to come to Christ. I'm not one of them. My preaching tends to move people by inches...
After two decades of professional preaching, I have become convinced that successful preaching is always a partnership between the preacher and his congregation. The preacher prepares. So do the congregation. The preacher prays for the Word to be effective. So do the congregation. The preacher connects with the unconvinced. The congregation connects with the unconvinced. The ideal partnership is for a "one mile" preacher to partner with a "one mile" congregation. That is, if a preacher can move people one mile closer to Christ, they will partner best with a congregation who connects with people "one mile" away. I would love to be a "one mile" preacher, but the truth is I am a "one inch" preacher. Therefore, I need people to partner with me who can help me move people "one inch".
Here's how we can do it. Whatever you do in the church, do it to move someone else "an inch". If you are preparing Communion, prepare Communion for "an inch". There may be someone who comes to our church service who needs to stop, reflect on Christ's atonement, and receive Christ's forgiveness afresh. Their marriage tension, or their business stresses, or their failing health, may have moved them "an inch" away from Jesus. But as they take the Communion Cup and the unleavened bread, which someone has prepared, they are moved "an inch" closer back to Christ. Your Communion preparation is an act of partnership with the preacher. If you are welcoming people as they enter our building, your smile and warmth of heart can help move them "an inch" closer to Jesus. You may never know what kind of horrible week some people might have had who walk through our doors. Your genuine welcome is an act of partnership with the preacher.
For me to move people an inch as a preacher, I have to work harder than most, because most other preachers can at least move people a foot. But for me to move people an inch, I have to read a lot. I have to study a lot. I have to ponder a lot. I have to pray a lot. I have to write a lot. Because I am also a member of the congregation that I am pastoring, I also try to cultivate the inch I am preaching for before I preach. How I conduct myself throughout the week. How I treat my wife and children. How I treat those I work with. How I treat those outside of a church throughout the week. All of these acts of service factor into determining whether this preacher will move these people "an inch".
But moving people, even "an inch", is not an easy thing. In fact, there are many things which move people away an inch - a thoughtless remark / an inconsiderate look / a forgotten birthday / a lapse in Christian consistency / an inappropriate FaceBook comment / flaunting road laws / excessive drinking or gluttony / slothfulness / passionless spirituality, and so on. I am ever mindful that I have, through dropping my guard, moved people "an inch" - but in the wrong direction!
Hebrews 7:25 ¶ Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermostthose who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. .
We want to move people "an inch" closer to Christ. Will you help me? You can. Take a minute each day for the preaching to be more effective and you are partnering in our efforts to move people an inch. If you wipe chairs or tables before a service, don't do it with your hands, instead do it with your heart. It's your passionate service of Christ in contributing to helping us conduct a worship service that moves people an inch. Be an under-shepherd after our services to someone by getting to know them and making them feel welcome. By doing this you help to move someone an inch.
Even though it looks like the preacher is moving people "an inch", truth be told, it's all of us playing our part together.
Philippians 1:5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Ps. AndrewFather, I need Your help. I want to preach so that people are moved an inch closer to Christ. Help me to lead the kind of life that increases this being able to happen. Lord, when I fail and let Your down, help me to be quick to repent. Give me partners who know that their service is making an eternal impact on the lives of others. And Father, we pray, that in all we do we might be privileged to see people come to Christ as their Saviour, in Jesus' Name, Amen.Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.