“Carron-shore. My last. Some tears; yet I fear some like the messenger, not the message; and I fear I am so vain as to love that love. Lord, let it not be so. Perish my honor, but let thine be exalted forever.” -Robert M. McCheyne
I am at times so shallow in my aims and hopes for those that are within earshot of my preaching. At times I can be tempted to think that if I get an “Amen” on Sunday that I have done a solid job and that I have been faithful in my task of preaching. But deep down I know the truth. I know that I know enough, and have been speaking for long enough, that I can work a crowd. I know how to get an “Amen” on Sunday.
But there is a work that is the point of pastoral ministry that I cannot “work”; namely, an “amen” on Monday. The goal of a pastor and his preaching is that the sacred words of Sunday will generate an “amen” on Monday. It is to the preacher’s honor that he gets an “amen” on Sunday. It is to Christ’s honor that he gets an “amen” on Monday!
A preacher that pursues his owner honor will work diligently for Sunday’s amen. The preacher that pursues the honor of Christ will work diligently to accomplish what only Christ can do—generate amen’s on Monday. I cannot speak for other pastors but there are a few signs that I am pursuing my honor instead of Christ’s. Here are a few:
- Passionless and dutiful praying or prayer neglected altogether
- “Changing” the message on Sunday morning mid-stream just to get a response
- Approval addiction rising up in my heart after the preaching event
- A stupid desire in my heart to “draw all men unto myself”
- Neutering the gospel message in places of possible offense
- When I lack confidence that the gospel is powerful enough to change hearts (both of believers and unbelievers)
- When I measure the sermon by listener response rather than biblical fidelity
Thankfully the gospel is powerful enough to redirect prideful and self-glorifying preachers even on Monday. The Spirit doggedly pursues us gospel ministers (as he does all believers) and shines the beauty of Christ up against our half-hearted and fallen aims for ministry. He reminds us that yes, “amen’s” are great on Sunday morning. But they are even more valuable when the “amen” is Christ-likeness on Monday. Perish my honor, but let thine be exalted forever.