In 1979, I was sent to the Institutional Church because of the urgency of 3 dreams that compelled me to find a particular pastor. In the book, “Come Out of Her, God’s People,” I describe the events of that particular time.
“I preached my first sermon with such fire and conviction that even my enemies in that church voted for me to be licensed. They believed that this was the Lord’s thing and they did not want to mess with me. Even though I was treated like an unloved step child for the next 25 years, my skill at preaching made room for me, no matter how uncomfortable the listener. A few hearers were bold enough to sit and do crossword puzzles right in my face, while others sat with bland faces, pretending that they were not convicted, but they were. I’d come out of the pulpit and stand at the aisles of the un-attentive—bible in hand,— preaching powerfully through their resistance. In the early days, some would not come to church if they knew in advance that I was the preacher of the hour. However, my skill caused those who did not like me personally to love the way I preached. These were those who were eager to have me prick their hearts. pg.70”
Consequently, when I left the Institutional Church in 2004, I was carrying a lot of baggage–particularly in the area of religious doctrine and various practices. Yet the thing I loved the most was preaching.
When I entered the IC in 1979, I did not know what a sermon was. When I witnessed my first sermonic performance by my first pastor, Rev. Lester, all I could do was sit there on that pew and cry. Once I entered ministry a few years later, I was required to preach a sermon. I said to myself, “Sermon? What in the world is that?”
Actually, the first sermon I preached was at night. I preached it in a dream. In fact, I awakened from sleep, “sermonizing”. Since then, I have uttered at least 2000 sermons in various pulpits. I went from long outlines, to short ones on index cards hidden in the bible, , to notes on little pieces of paper, to simply opening the bible and submitting myself to the flow of the text and what I believed at the time was the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
Then one day—-the Monday after my 25th anniversary of preaching–October 25, 2006, the Lord spoke. On Sunday, I had preached a sermon called “What Do You Have to Burn.” The irony is that when I preached “What Do You Have to Burn,” I did not have the slightest idea that what I had to burn was “preaching.” For those who have the time to listen, click the title link to hear my last sermon.
So as I sat before the Lord on Monday, “I heard Him speak into my spirit, “Preaching is not building 3 point messages from isolated texts and creating a sermon. Sermonizing or homiletics is not of Me. It is manmade.”
Immediately I knew that anything spiritual that is manmade is religious and that anything religious has a form of godliness that is without power to bear genuine spiritual fruit. I also had a great deal of experience with people who heard a sermon that they they could not remember shortly thereafter. I may have been deceived but not blind. Clearly, the one who got the most out of my sermons was ME!
That was all the Lord needed to say.
It is important to state that He did not ask me to stop preaching, nor did He say that sermonizing is of the devil. Yet I could read between His lines. I began to recall how uncomfortable I always was sitting in pulpits. Then I remembered various images of my colleagues who seemed to be “taken over” by a force that I always suspected was not the Holy Ghost.
Instantly—-cold turkey—-I dropped the baggage of “sermonizing” and I have not looked back. It was not difficult. Once the Lord revealed His heart, my desire to preach immediately left me.
Do I utter today? Yes, but I am very careful in how I use the scriptures when I teach, making sure that I remain in accord with the text within its original context. However, if a pastor was to invite me to his or her church to speak, I would decline. I do not step foot in churches.
To look back is TO GO BACK. Anyway, All I would say to the Harlot is “Come Out of Her, God’s People.”
Among those who have left the IC, there are many of you who are still carrying a lot of religious baggage and you need to be de-programmed. I can help with that so call 518-477-5759.
- Seven Deadly Sins of the Pulpit (stevemurrell.typepad.com)
- Why Read The Bible – Day 23 of 32 – Treasure The Word (christlikeministriesnwa.wordpress.com)
- Fake Church (storiesinmypocket.wordpress.com)
- The State of Preaching (challies.com)