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Doctrine in dialogue format
14LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? (Psalm 88:)
Have you ever wondered what the life of a minister is like? Well wonder no longer, because it's time for The Parsonage where you will experience a day in the life of Reverend Leopold and his wife Ermintrude Bach, patriarch of the perish.
In today's episode we find Pastor Ottoman Hassock entering the restaurant where Pastor Leo is sitting at a table with his head cradled in his hands. Listen:
"What? Oh, hi Otto. No, I'm fine thank you. And how are you today."
"Man, you're really out of it today aren't you Leo? I wasn't talking about your condition but the condition of the coffee. What's got you so disturbed today? I hope you're not having marital problems."
"No, nothing like that Otto. And actually it's nothing new. It's something that's been gnawing at me for some time. Today it was made much clearer to me is all."
"What was made clearer Leo? Maybe what's not clear to you isn't clear because you're not clear. Nothing you've said today, at least what you said to me, makes any sense at all. Maybe you'd better start from the beginning."
"Yes, I guess I should. Otto, when you give a sermon, are you confident that your congregation understands what you're telling them? I mean, don't you have some doubt but that you've maybe left something out or not expressed something in your sermon needed for your message to be clear?"
"That's an odd question if I ever heard one Leo. But no, I don't think I've left anything out. I take a lot of time preparing my sermon to make sure it's clear and understandable. Why? Why do you ask?"
"I take a lot of time preparing my sermons also. And when I preach on simple topics that are fairly well understood by everyone I assume they all understand what I'm trying to say. And if they don't understand, it really doesn't matter all that much. But sometimes, like today, I preach on a vital subject that I consider imperative that they know and understand. These are things I feel are beyond their comprehension because they're things just recently revealed to me. Do you understand what I mean Otto?"
"I understand ok, but I don't understand what's bothering you. Are you talking about something serious like salvation? If that's all that's bothering you Leo, just give an alter call. That should solve your problem."
"I'm not talking about the first step to the Lord, Otto. I've covered that often enough. And I have no doubt my congregation understands that principal. It's the steps beyond the alter that I'm concerned about. I can't seem to get the people off their knees and on their wilderness journey. They don't seem to understand the concept at all, nor do they care."
"What are you talking about Leo? What wilderness journey are you talking about? You're not making any sense. Maybe the reason your congregation doesn't understand what your saying is because what you're saying shouldn't be said. Have you ever considered that?"
"Yes Otto, I've considered that. And I've at times thought about just staying within the safe guidelines of doctrine. But I find the need to progress in my walk an important one, and I believe it's important for others as well."
"Progress? In your walk? You're doing it again Leo. I think you're just causing yourself a big headache that's for no purpose. When you go beyond the simplicity of the Gospels, which you do so often, you're heading down the wrong road. Stay on the straight and narrow road of church doctrine and you'll be ok. Get off that narrow road and you just confuse people. And you cause yourself a big headache. Just keep it simple Leo. That's what I do."
"I think the simplicity of the Gospels has been taken to a dangerous extreme Otto. Besides, simple is only simple when you know the principles involved. Changing the spark plus on a car is simple when you know how. But it's a big mystery until you learn. And that's my concern Otto. No one is interested."
"No one is interested in what Leo? Are you trying to teach your congregation how to change spark plugs? No wonder you're having trouble getting through to them. I really think...."
"No Otto, no. I'm not teaching them how to fix a car. I mean my people don't seem to be interested in the sermons I preach. It's as if I'm preaching to a herd of sheep. I get no reaction from them at all. Do you ever feel that way Otto? I mean, that your congregation has no interest in what you're preaching?"
"They're sheep Leo, just like you said. Sheep like to sleep. They're thinking about the golf game they're missing, or the meal they're going to prepare after church. If you get one person who hears half of what you say you're doing good. Talk to them like they're sheep and your headache will go away. You make too big of an issue of your preaching. Slack off a bit and you'll be fine, I guarantee it."
"Slacking off is exactly what I don't want to do Otto. My job is to prepare these sheep for meeting their Lord. That to me is a very important responsibility. Don't you think so Otto?"
"Of course I do Leo. But I've done that when I've brought them to the alter and the baptismal tank. That's my job as far as preparing the sheep for Heaven. Beyond that it's a matter of feeding the sheep and bandaging their wounds. But we've been down this road before. Tell me, what makes you think your sheep aren't listening to you or taking your sermons seriously? Are they talking while you preach?"
"I disagree with you're view of baptism and the alter Otto, but like you said, we've been there before. No, I don't have anyone talking or sleeping during my sermons. By all appearances everyone is attentive and interested. I have no problem there."
"Then what's your beef Leo? What do you want them to do, jump up in the isles and dance a jig or something? Maybe they don't applaud you like you were giving some kind of performance like a rock star. Is that your problem?"
"Of course not Otto. Here, let me draw you a verbal picture. I used the example of working on a car earlier. Let's say you took your car in for service. The mechanic tells you something that wasn't quite clear to you. What do you do?"
"I fix my own cars thank you Leo. But I'll play along with you. If I didn't understand what the mechanic said? Well, I guess I'd ask him to repeat what he told me. Did I win the prize?"
"Yes you did Otto. You were right on. Now, you're at your doctor and your doctor gives you a prescription for some medicine and he tells you how to take it properly. Let's say you're mind wandered for a second and you missed a few words. What would you do?"
"Bingo, gotcha ol' buddy. I'd ask him to repeat the instructions. You're questions are getting monotonous Leo. They all have the same answer. Throw me a hard ball this time. I'm up to the game."
"Ok Otto, a hard one. Your daughter comes to you and says she's going on a date tonight. What do you do?"
"If my daughter is dating I want to know where she's going, what time she'll be back, and who she's going with. I load her down with questions is what I do. I'm real careful with my pride and joy. And she knows it. Why all these questions Leo? What are you driving at?"
"I'm driving at questions Otto. Questions are a sign of interest. Even over minor issues we ask questions when we don't fully understand something. If we're not interested in something, we don't ask questions. We don't ask the mechanic what he said if we don't care to know anything about what he's doing and don't care how much it costs. We don't ask the doctor what he said if we don't plan on following the instructions anyway. We don't ask our children what they're doing if we don't care about our child. It's the same with the messages I preach. Week after week I spend a lot of time and a lot of care in preparing a sermon that will hopefully motive my people to better themselves and to instruct them in the Word. I know I haven't put my point across as clearly as I should have. I know there must be a lot of questions left unanswered in each of those who are actually listening to what I say. But when I'm through, and standing at the door, there is never a question asked. I should expect a ton of questions about what I've said. I would expect my phone to ring off the hook all week with people wanting to learn more about what I had preached. This is especially so after the sermon I preached this morning. I would expect to hear the people standing around the lobby talking to one another about what I had said. But instead of questions and talk about the sermon, I hear talk about the weather and what they plan on doing that Sunday afternoon. This causes me to think no one is interested in what I'm saying. And since what I'm saying is about God and their eternal life, I think they don't believe in either. In fact Otto, I just doubt that anyone believes anything. And I think this because no one questions anything."
1My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? (Psalm 22:)
33Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. 34Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. 35For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. 36But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death. (Prov 8:)
16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2Tim 3:)
15And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to inquire of God: (Ex 18:)
21And Isaac entreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD. (Gen 25:)
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