An Asterisk to My Sermon
If you speak often enough, you will eventually say something best left unsaid. Pastors are not immune to this principle. After a recent sermon, as I closed the worship service, I repaired an ill-stated portion of my sermon. My son Andrew told me later it was the first time he heard a sermon with an asterisk.
I was addressing the question that pastors frequently hear: “Can God save my marriage?” In a separate post, I gave a summary of my notes. Suffice it to say that I believe God will save your marriage but only along with you as His grace empowers confessional and redemptive living.
During the message, I wanted to make the point that if a spouse (specifically a wife) is in an abusive relationship, she should seek refuge with the church. We are to be a family of faith that cares for those in need. I wanted to highlight the point about how we help one another in dire situations.
And then I made a mistake. Seeing the congregation respond so well to this idea, I pushed too hard in the wrong direction. I followed it up with the basic idea: “And if you’re the husband that bullies or abuses his wife, we want to meet you after church too.” It was said in the tone of “I’ve got some guys that want to give you a beat down in the parking lot.” It was dumb.
I finished the message without thinking twice about my bravado, offered a time of response, and then left the platform as the worship team led us in a song. Standing on the front row, the Holy Spirit immediately convicted me about my poor choice during the time I was supposed to be preaching the gospel. When the response song ended, I went back to the platform and added an asterisk to my sermon.
If effect, I said that I was mistaken and offered something along these lines: If you are an abusive husband, we want you to stop. The only way to do so is for you to be redeemed by Christ as well. So, the men of our church don’t want to meet you in the parking lot but at the altar.
For those who preach, let me remind you:
- You are not immune from pride in the pulpit so watch your words and your manners.
- When you make a mistake, confess it and enjoy God’s redemptive work.
- No one should be an object of ridicule in your sermons.
- No one deserves the gospel but everyone needs it. Including you.
The promise of the gospel is that all sin can be forgiven and all people can be redeemed. In our culture, being a tough guy, an assertive gal, and a snarky person is highly valued. But the gospel calls us to something much better. I’m thankful that the Spirit of God was kind enough to convict me in this direction. I hope to become a better pastor and preacher for it.