“These people just don’t value the Word!”
The previous Sunday, he had given a 50-minute exposition on an obscure text in 1 Kings. It was accurate, scholarly, and the point of his sermon was indeed the point of the text. It was, as we Reformed-ish people like to say, “solid.”
It also fell flat.
Sure, he got several of those typical “good sermon, preacher” messages in the foyer after church. But he saw the glazed over look on their face. And some of the comments afterwards weren’t as encouraging.
“I had a hard time following that one.”
“That was deep stuff. Over my head!”
How, then, does he assess this? He was faithful to the text, God’s Word doesn’t come back void, and yet the people didn’t seem to value the Word enough to dig deeper. They weren’t willing to go into the depths, where the pastor was.
Maybe they just don’t value the Word…
“These people just don’t care about the Word of God anymore.”
The pastor had been at this particular church for almost a decade. When he first started the people were engaged and eating up his Bible studies. They were hungry for the Word, and he was happy to feed them.
But somewhere around year three, they didn’t seem to be nearly as engaged. He was preaching about the same message he had been preaching at the beginning. Simple and engaging talks that came out of the Bible. They were relevant and preached at a level that new believers would easily follow along.
But now people seemed bored. They weren’t getting fed anymore, it seemed. If you asked the people in the congregation they’d tell you that every message seemed about the same. They were helpful when he first came, but one can only remain engaged in the same message for so long.
What’s the pastor to conclude, then? Have they gotten “bored with the gospel”? Do they not value the Word anymore?
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. (Mark 4:33)
That little phrase at the end has massive implications for preachers. It also helps to solve the conundrum of both the pastors mentioned above.
Mark 4 is all about the importance of hearing and responding to the message of Jesus. It’s filled with parables that serve as little windows into the kingdom of God. But these parables also serve as an invitation into discipleship. Will it catch their attention? Will they follow the parable into its deeper meaning?
Jesus not only met people where they were, he also stayed a step or two ahead of them. And that is what is missing for the pastors in the above scenarios. For the one pastor he is so far ahead of his congregation that they don’t even know how to get to him. He’s not even speaking the same language. For the other pastor he’s not taking them anywhere. He’s got them, he’s fed them, but now he needs to lead them into greener pastures.