CONSIDER THE OPPORTUNITIES
I’m glad for the preaching opportunities given to me early in my calling. It was a scary, humbling, and special privilege when my pastor, Tom Lilly, and others asked that I preach in the church. And when thinking about preaching, we usually compartmentalize sermons as taking place within the comfortable walls of the church building. But we have to take to heart that the burden of preaching and sharing the gospel is not confined to just one outlet. The opportunities for preaching extend as far as our imagination and innovation.
In the past, when I heard some young preachers grumble that no one was letting them preach, my response was generally kind but pointed. I would say something like, “If God’s called you, no one needs to let you; you will find somewhere to preach!” And there are so many opportunities if we’ll look for them and become innovative to take advantage of the possibilities.
I started out bringing 10-minute messages in the middle of our church-sponsored roller-skating events. Pastor Lilly helped set that up for me, but I still remember those times like it were yesterday. I had a captive audience; they would gather and listen—probably because they wanted to skate more once I was done. But that’s okay. I began to exercise myself in preaching. Since those days, I’ve used various means within the ministry to proclaim the gospel message in schools, shopping malls, grocery stores, trailer parks, and festivals. And then there are the more traditional places such as camps, retreats, revivals, and churches. But the point here is this: the location of preaching and the avenue for declaring the gospel was not as essential as the faithful effort to proclaim it.
USE AVAILABLE OPENINGS
One of the openings available to preachers right now is livestream services. Understandably, some pastors are struggling with knowing how effective the church will be in its message either inside the building or online. The truth is that some people will not listen to messages online, and others will not come to the services. That might seem to be a dilemma; however, some who might not come to a service might listen to at least some of an online service. And as the time arrives when inside services once again take place without restrictions, that shouldn't mean the end of online preaching! Therefore, whether in the building, outside the building, or livestreaming from the building, may the Lord help us share the Word with anyone who will listen.
The Apostle Paul said, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). The task given to us is that of faithfulness in proclaiming God’s Word, but there is no singular place where that must happen. Throughout the years, God has allowed various influences to change the modus operandi of the church, and it's no different now. What is important is not the challenge we face, but what we do with the challenge.
STILL PROMOTE GATHERING
Now the gathering of the church IS crucial and must be part of the unshakable foundation of the church ministry. But the outreach of the gathered church is not bound by walls or restrictions. The strength of the church is Christ, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). And the power of our message is not in our words, efforts, or technology. The ability of God's Word to impact lives rests with the Lord. The authority we are given, and the responsibility we hold is to share the Word faithfully, universally, and unashamedly. And having done so, we must trust God to accomplish through it all that He might.
The most effective place for the preached Word is wherever it is preached! Therefore, "Preach the Word!"