I had just spoken in the church I had pastored a few years before, in my home country of New Zealand, after having been away on a lengthy speaking tour; one of many through many countries, and was enjoying a cup of tea with those who remained after the service. An elderly man, with whom I had had much contact over a long period of my life, came up to make conversation with me. After some preliminaries he then took me by the elbow and moved me to the side of the room saying that there was something he wanted to ask me.
Looking almost like a spy in a doorway on a dark night, he looked around the room to make sure no one was listening and then, looking deeply into my eyes, asked me this question:
“Tell me, James,” he said, “…how do you get your invitations to speak around the world?”
As I looked into this man’s eyes my heart was burdened for him as I realised the lifetime of years of struggle he had endured. I could see that he had wanted to be an itinerant preacher all of his life but it had not happened for him. Brought up in a Christian family, he had lived a faithful life of service in the Body of Christ, spanning more than seventy decades. I knew the places of great responsibility in leadership within many significant ministries that he had been entrusted with. He had known many of the world’s leaders within his Christian sphere during his life and had been close friends with some. He was a good man and a spiritual father to many. But my heart felt such sorrow for him as I realised that, in all of this, his desire had been to be a preacher and be sought after as a speaker around the world. He wanted to be like so many others that he knew closely. But it had never materialised. So his query to me was: How did I make it happen for me when he had tried and failed to make it happen for him?
As I looked into his eyes my mind was filled with thoughts of what I could say to him. But all of them would have been either beyond him to understand, or would be received as a rebuke from a much younger man than he. It would not have been a loving act for me to tell him what I was thinking. I paused for some seconds then settled to simply say, “When people got blessed by having God touch their lives when they’d heard me speak somewhere they just wanted to hear me again. So they’ve gone back to their home churches and tried to get an invitation sent to me by their leadership so that they would invite me to come to their church too.”
He tilted his head back a little and nodded and our conversation was over. My answer didn’t satisfy him, of course, but it didn’t satisfy me either. I have considered that small conversation many times over the last years and wondered if there was something else I should have said instead. I think in that situation at that time I was still more provocative than I should have been. I realised that in that conversation I had effectively said to him that in all of his seventy decades of trying to be a preacher no one had really been blessed by God, or at least not significantly enough and no one had wanted to hear him again! I’ve been sorry about that ever since.
There are many people who preach the Christian life all around the world and may there be even more in future. There are many different motivations for preaching and there are many different spheres which preachers move in around the world. Some preach to their local churches, some to great crowds. Some teach, some encourage, some inspire, some comfort, some point the way and some simply love and try to help those to whom they are speaking. And in the midst of all of this there are myriads of personal reasons and motivations for people who are involved in this preaching life and not all of those are able to be anointed by God! There are some, however, who have something more than the average.
They have an insatiable desire to know and touch God’s heart whatever that may turn out to mean. They don’t care in the main what others think of them. They want God above all. They have times of utter ecstasy as the hand of God touches their hearts with His own. Joy unspeakable and full of glory comes to them in unplanned and totally unexpected times. Times of great peace and blessing and equally in times of extreme hardship and want. They know the supernatural power and authority of the Holy Spirit and reject all other forms of authorities of this world and its ways. They experience times of being caught up into the realms of God’s perspective from which His written word to them becomes a door through the invisible curtains over the eyes of the blind.
But they also know the hand of God on them to discipline them as sons. They know not to be overwhelmed by the soul destroying discipline, nor to take it lightly. They know that suffering is the way their Father perfected Jesus’ humanity while He was on earth as a man and so they accept suffering as the hand of God on them to perfect them also. They don’t waste their sorrows. They have no control over what their lives are or what they will become.
They don’t lay back in the sun when seasons of wilderness are apportioned to them. They don’t lose heart, they don’t forget the goodness of God and they don’t abandon their hope in God even when everything around them screams, ‘give up’. They can’t. They have burned their bridges. They have nothing else but God.
They have lived through their Gethsemane where all sense of God falls away and sin is apportioned to them. They have had their public, humiliating, crucifixions where their reputation before man has left them to be buried alone by one or two faithful ones. They have been resurrected by our Father in the night where everyone else can’t see and is asleep.
They have risen/are rising, to the right hand of God.
They have a quality of words that reaches deeply into hearts and changes the person hearing by the simple fact that they heard the words spoken. Through these speakers, the presence and voice of God is ‘heard’ and has now shaped the hearer deep in their inner being and that inner being is forever more like Christ. From that moment there is no going back to yesterday’s life and walk. This speaker speaks, ‘as the oracles of God.’ Something about his or her speaking has a spiritual substance that is the same as Jesus had, as scripture has, as Moses heard coming from the burning bush. They don’t speak about God or for God. They don’t explain scripture or teach meanings so as to encourage obedience or exhort to greater holiness.
They speak in the sight of God, “in Christ”. (2 Cor 2:17) An incarnation is created in the Word become flesh in the preacher.
They follow the leanings of the manifesting Christ within themselves. They follow the mood of God with their voice. The speak as God speaks, at least to some real degree. And…… People encounter God when this person speaks.
This speaker, of course, will be invited to speak wherever there are people who truly want to know, experience and interact in love with God. This one will not lack invitations. For this preacher it’s not about having a ministry, being a leader, a pastor, a travelling speaker, being influential or productive in life or the Kingdom. He does nothing to engineer the ministries success or take any interest in its productivity or in leaving a legacy to his own name; he is moved by God alone and wants only God to be remembered and glorified. Doors of ministry are opened and closed by God and his mouth, tongue, personality and body are directed by God to present what God wants to say and to say it the way He wants it said. He will speak wherever the Lord leads him without thought of tactics or gain.
This speaker knows they are gifted by God, called by God and anointed by God. All those impressed by ‘their ministry’ are giving thanks and glory to God not them. They have simply been living out their walk with God which has included His dealings to their fallen personality.
God’s anointing has taught them to communicate from a heart that has been worked on by God in myriads of daily things over years. They speak from what God has wrought into their humanity.
They don’t speak to fulfil a vision they believe God has given to them, but they speak -to fulfil God’s vision that they have been included in, most of which they will never know. Working with their Father doing what they see their Father doing is always and solely enough. And they go to their forever seeking a seat at the back.
May the preachers of tomorrow learn the ‘path of the preacher’….…