“Preach from the heart”, these are the words that keep coming back to me as I think about preaching today. I could talk about technique, I also go back and forward between preaching from a script to preaching form just a series of topics. I sometimes spend hours over the PowerPoint and sometimes just pop up a simple slide behind me. But I’ve been interrupted in my journey recently by a figure from a different culture. Through some connections in our congregation we hosted a seminar with Jackie Pullinger (from Hong Kong) last month. She’s a surprising woman, strong, direct and a little intimidating, but she also has a passion for the ministry of every Christian and a passion for the lost and poor of our world.
She told us a story about a pastor who had gone to the North of England for 5 years some time ago, because he had heard there was going to be a revival there. The revival didn’t come and he left. Jackie was horrified that he had been chasing the revival and that he wasn’t there ‘for the sheep’. Jackie spoke for 10 hours over 2 or 3 days, and there were only 2 or 3 times I remember such raw emotion in her voice. It had two effects on me, firstly it made me really think about my motives, “Do I want to be a great preacher, or do I want to love the sheep.” Of course I want to do both, but I find it so easy to get caught up in what I am saying. Preach from the heart of Jesus to his people. Secondly it reminded me of the impact when I reveal just how much I feel about some subjects.
Later I was reading Jackie’s book ‘Chasing the Dragon’, about the early years of her ministry in Hong Kong. She quotes something that was said to her by a gang leader four years into her time in Hong Kong, I think it speaks of integrity of heart that shouts the loudest prayer. “We couldn’t care less if you have big buildings or small ones. You can be offering free rice, free schools, judo classes or needlework to us. It doesn’t matter if you have a daily program or hymn singing once a week. These things don’t touch us because the people who run them have nothing to do with us. What we want to know is if you are concerned with us.” Wow! What a statement from the community; what a question from our listeners. When we stand up to preach, do our sermons reflect our love for the sheep, and does our love for the sheep reflect His love for the sheep?