“I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. . . “ -Romans 15:14-15
One of the greatest joys I had in the Philippines was teaching the Scriptures to students who had never really studied them before. I’d hand out copies of the New Testament and tell them the page number where they could find the passage we would study. It was the first time many of them had experienced a simple, verse-by-verse discussion of God’s word with someone willing to answer their questions.
The same goes for my preaching ministry: I had to be careful about assuming my listeners knew anything about the text I would be sharing. This was particularly true in some of the evangelistic preaching opportunities God gave me.
There was something extremely refreshing about doing ministry in this kind of setting. What an amazing privilege!
This is not to say that Filipinos are biblically illiterate–there are thousands of faithful believers there who diligently study the Bible. But my ministry was focused more on those who were new to the faith.
My ministry took an ironic turn here in the States. I’ve had the privilege of preaching (short-term) in three churches. All three congregations were of an older demographic: the average attendee had probably been listening to sermons since before I was born.
“What can I share that they haven’t already heard many times before?” I asked myself this question as I embarked on this new season of ministry.
God taught me something very important: I don’t have to teach/preach anything “new.” I’m not saying God lead me to “recycle” old sermon outlines from C.H. Spurgeon. Preaching, after all, is applying the timeless truths of Scripture to our modern context. But I realized that preaching is a ministry of reminding for many of us who have had already learned the basics doctrines of the faith.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m always learning new things when I prepare for (or listen to) sermons. But I’ve let go of the need to hear “I’ve never heard anything like that before” when I preach. I’m just as content to know I have reminded my listeners of things we need to hear over and over again. Here are a few examples that quickly come to mind:
- It’s not about us.
- We can trust God.
- Life is fleeting.
- God expects obedience.
- We are forgiven in Christ.
The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. We need to constantly hear the gospel preached because we are a forgetful people. I’m thankful for the ministry of reminding–both as a preacher and hearer of God’s word.