Three Sundays each month finds me leading worship and preaching in a small Presbyterian church in Carterville, Illinois. The Lord first led me to this congregation almost a year and a half ago. They were without a pastor, and I began to fill in for them occasionally. Over time, relationships developed, and they invited me to serve them on a more frequent basis.
I had been with them for a while when I felt a stirring of the Holy Spirit in regards to how I delivered a message on the Sundays I was with them. This group of people is working to discern next steps for their church, and I felt God was inviting me to consider offering more interactive teaching rather than preaching. Teaching is something I do all the time, but I have never taught in a Sunday service. When I teach, I ask a lot of questions and encourage discussion. And for the most part, that isn’t what people are expecting during a Sunday morning service.
So I had a decision to make, didn’t I? I could either take a risk and step out in obedience to the Holy Spirit leading I felt, or I could turn away from that instruction and continue to conduct services in the way everyone knew. No one would fault me for sticking to what I’d been doing. In fact, if I chose not to share my Holy Spirit experience, no one would ever know I’d decided anything at all.
In Galatians 1:10, Paul challenges us with a contrasting idea. His words indicate that we have a choice. We can seek to win the favor and approval of other people, or we can serve Christ. Now, this doesn’t mean that if we serve Christ, no one will like us. Some people will like us very much. But it does mean we need to be honest about our motivation. Do we make decisions based on gaining popularity? Or do we make decisions based on obeying the instructions of Christ?
Here’s some encouraging news for you. It took me a while, but I did start teaching interactively instead of preaching during our Sunday morning time together. And so far, it has been well received. We all have some work to do to get more comfortable with this new style. But God has honored both my obedience and the congregation’s openness. Together, we are gaining a deeper understanding of the Bible and how it speaks to our lives.
I was concerned they wouldn’t like it. Even deeper, I was concerned they wouldn’t like me for trying it. But neither of these things have proven true, and I’m grateful. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to stand at a crossroads and make an important decision. When faced with a Holy Spirit calling, will we shrink away because we are concerned about our reputation? Or will we step out in steadfast determination to serve Christ?
These are challenging words worth pondering from the apostle Paul. Am I now trying to win the favor and approval of men, or of God? If I were still trying to be popular with men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 [AMP].