Is the preacher talking to me?
Published 8:01 pm Thursday, May 18, 2017
By Norm Fields
One of my favorite preachers told how he would reply when someone would ask him, “Were you preaching at me?” He said he would ask them, “Well, did it apply to you?” In other words, if what he taught applied to them, then, yes, he was preaching at them. Not that he had targeted them. But if they perceived the sermon was directed at them, then it must have been something they needed to hear.
When I teach biblical principles, whether in a public lecture, sermon or in an article, I am not targeting any specific individual or group. Of course, there are times in my writing when I am making a point about a specific group or individual. That’s because the point is directly connected to them.But, even then, I am not necessarily targeting that group or individual. I am making a point, in connection with teaching biblical principles (positive or negative), with broader application than to just that group or individual.
I describe certain conduct to illustrate either the positive expression of biblical principles or the negative rejection of biblical principles. I am not “naming names,” so to speak, I’m just describing certain actions. But someone recognizes the described conduct as something in which they are involved. When that recognition is of a positive expression of biblical principles, the person will very rarely ever make mention of it. It is almost always when someone recognizes the described conduct as a negative rejection of Christlikeness that they will ask, “Were you preaching at me?”
Likewise,when someone says, “Were you preaching at me,” it is almost always asked as though a response of “yes I was” would be offensive to them. But the simple truth of the matter is, if the message applied to you, then, yes, I was preaching “at” (i.e. “for”) you. If the message brings to your awareness something that may be hindering your healthy relationship with Christ, why would you be offended by that? Shouldn’t that be something that is appreciated and responded to in a positive manner?
Consider Peter’s message to the general assembly of Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14). Peter described how the Jews in Jerusalem had rejected Christ and campaigned for His death (Acts 2:22-23, 36). He flat out charged them with unlawfully murdering the Son of God! Were they offended by Peter telling them straight to their face that they had killed the Messiah? No! It says they were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). That is, they were deeply hurt by their own guilt of being part of a group that had so rejected their own Messiah.
They “gladly received his word” (Acts 2:41). Rather than being offended by Peter, they wanted to know how to be forgiven.
There is another example of a group that was “cut to the heart” by a preacher’s message. In Acts 7:51f, Stephen most definitely preached right at them! Acts 7:54 says that “when they heard these things they were cut to the heart…” But, rather than recognizing their own guilt, they were offended. They raged against the messenger, crying out against him and even “stopping their ears” (Acts 7:57f). They cast him out and stoned him to death!
So, when you’re made to wonder, “is he talking about me (us),” ask yourself why you might think that. Is it because you recognize described behavior that applies to you? And, if so, how should you respond to that?
Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or BibleQnA@NormFields.com.