When I was a teenage preacher, I got to preach at a lot of churches. I mean a lot. However, most of the time I would just come and go, say what I wanted to, and had little accountability in my life for the things that I would preach. I assume the pastors of those churches were just happy that I was done. I was a very legalistic young man. I thought that I actually had something to do with my salvation. Trust me, living in Grace is much easier.
I had the privilege of preaching at a church called the Quinton Church of God. As a young charismatic boy, I would go in and preach like there was no tomorrow. If I didn't sweat, I didn't feel like I really preached. I remember preaching at this church and I even remember the message that I attempted to preach. I was yelling about how David would live in the shadow of the Almighty and all of the things that go with dramatic, intense preaching.
Ever so often, for some reason I would use the phrase "I don't care". I assume I was saying something like, "I don't care what you have been through in your life, you will make it." Or, "I don't care if you don't like this type of preaching." Either way, I sounded like a jerk.
Well, after I had sweated enough and preached everything that I knew in the Bible it was time to go home. I thought that I would just collect my check and hit the door and hopefully get to come back and preach again some time. Not the case. The pastor asked me to come and sit with him for a few moments while the other people mingled. He began to share with me his thoughts about my message and appreciated my passion and even the content of some of the things that I was saying.
He then said, "Matt, there is something that you say in your preaching that is quite hurtful. You may not even realize that you are saying it, but it can come across very negative and hurtful." I looked at him as though he was an idiot. How dare he correct me. Doesn't he realize that I know everything? I mean I have already been preaching for one year. What can this old man teach me? Holy cow, I was such an egotistical idiot.
I acted as though I was interested or cared, so I allowed him to tell me what he wanted to say. He said to me, "Matt, you often say the words 'I don't care.' Those three words should never be in any message that you ever preach. It doesn't matter how you were saying them or their intention, it comes across as though you actually do not care and we as leaders must always care."
Have you ever left a meeting and felt as though you were 1 inch tall? I certainly did that day. I often feel small every time I think of the words "I don't care". Pastor Mark Brown gave me one of the greatest bits of wisdom that I've ever experienced in life. You see, you and I are called to care with every fiber of our being.
I have tried over the 15 plus years of my ministry to root out the words "I don't care". I have often failed. I'm so glad that preachers like Mark Brown can look past the immaturity and the ego of young preachers. If it had not been for men of God speaking into my life such as this, I could possibly still be saying, "I don't care".
If you know me, you know that I care. But I would hate for my words and my actions not to be aligned. So today, let us strip out the words "I don't care" from our vocabulary, especially if we are preachers. We do care.
Thank you Mark for teaching me that the context of my words matter more than my careless preaching.
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