In the fourteenth century, John Tauler of Strasbourg was a powerful preacher, with people coming from miles around to hear him preach. One day he became aware that his motives were not pure when he went into the pulpit–that he was not preaching to bless hearts and glorify God.
He went into his study and closed the door. He spent long hours in prayer. When the time arrived for him to preach on Sunday and the crowds had gathered, Tauler did not appear in the pulpit. The crowds waited for him, but he still did not appear.
When someone from the crowd went to see why he still had not come out, they found him in his study, on his knees in prayer. When they urged him to come preach to the great crowds of people, Tauler replied, “Go back and tell the audience I will not preach today. Neither shall I ever preach again unless God comes with me into the pulpit.”
For many days Tauler continued to pray, and the people continued to come back to hear him. Finally, when he came back to the pulpit, there was such power evident in his preaching that many people fell under conviction only minutes after he began. We are much too “sophisticated” in our day for this to happen (do you read the sarcasm there?) but when the people became convicted by Tauler’s preaching that day, they fell over on the benches, out into the aisles and along the floor. A great turning back to God resulted, the influence of which lasted nearly 150 years.
Too often in our day, we merely go into the pulpit when it’s time to preach, not because we have a message from the Living God. We preach because we have to say something, not because we have something to say. What would happen in **your** congregation should you announce to them that God had given you no message that week, and therefore, you have nothing to say? There undoubtedly would be repercussions (“What do we pay you for, anyway?”) but the spiritually sensitive in your congregation would perceive that your courage and honesty would be but prelude to a great working of God about to fall in your midst.
Bottom line: it takes pastoral courage to proclaim the whole counsel of God. It also takes courage to admit that, for that day at least, we have heard nothing from God, and we will not cheapen the responsibility of preaching by merely pretending to have a message.
By Rocky Henriques