As a preacher and communicator, I am a big proponent of knowing who you are speaking to. As John Stott reminded us, we who preach live in “two worlds” — the world of the Bible and our own world. Fred Craddock taught us that good preaching flows out of a preacher who knows his God and his people.
Therefore, I try to craft my messages with my audience in mind. I think through different life situations and scenarios. Before I head for the stage, I usually look around and remind myself who is in the room.
But I never know everybody. This was brought home to me once again this past Sunday.
After our first service, a young lady and her mother stopped to thank me for the service. As they spoke, the young lady began crying — and I mean really crying. Like sobbing. The mother apologized and then said this (and I’ll paraphrase): “This is our first time here. Her two year-old son just died this past Friday.”
I immediately moved the three of us off to the side, to a place where we could speak without being interrupted. We spoke for about ten minutes. Those ten minutes reoriented the rest of my morning. Needless to say, they added a whole new dimension to the next service.
Later that night I received an email from the young mom. Part of it read, “The Onward message and music moved me in such a way to help me in my grieving.”
I must confess: as I prepped that message, having a grieving mom who just lost her two year-old son in audience was not on my mind. It will be next time, and not that it will happen every time I preach (I sure hope not!). But it was a sobering reminder that I never fully know who I am speaking to on any given weekend.
May it be a reminder to you as well. Whenever we step into the pulpit we represent God and his message to panoply of people who come from a variety of backgrounds, carrying different hopes and hurts.
My prayer is that God will use each of us to serve his purpose, in his time, in his way.