“These people come because there is something wrong with them. One man, metaphorically, has put his shoulder out, another has an abscess, another a headache. That is true; and it is always true of every congregation. These people do not come just as minds or as intellects, they come as total persons in the midst of life, with all its attendant circumstances and its problems, and its difficulties and its trials; and the business of the preacher is not only to remember that but to preach accordingly. He is dealing with living persons, people who are in need and in trouble, sometimes not consciously; and he is to make them aware of that, and to deal with it.”- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 55.
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”- 1 Thessalonians 4:9-11
Lloyd-Jones’ words convict me today. How often do i meet with students and friends and act as if everything is Leave-it-to-Beaver blissful? How often is my conversation about random and meaningless things, sprinkled with simple chit-chat aimed at nothing more than stirring up conversation. I have forgotten that this person has been bombarded with the culture in the hours before our meeting and that he has been tempted and tried by the war within himself and the sin from outside himself. I have forgotten that he has been sinned against by his peers, that his life is full of pain and trouble, full of insecurity and doubt. Lloyd-Jones’ words simply do not apply to preachers, they apply to Christians as well. Christians are all in war, but we treat each other like we are in peace times. We are all dealing with “living persons,” persons experiencing life, hard life, spiritual or physical. Surely a moment’s reflection on this would move us from idle conversation to deep-water conversation, from snorkeling to scuba diving. Is there a place for simple conversation and chit-chat? Perhaps. But if there may be a place for that, there certainly is more of a place for heart talk, for true encouragement and strengthening. Have i forgotten that my friends are going through divorces, that death has plagued my next door neighbor and friend, that the people i come in contact with are in war, that those around me have truly struggled today? I have truly struggled today, and i desire to stop talking about the weather and to start talking about my heart. Surely we must encourage, we must strengthen. This is not simply an aim in preaching, this is a call for all who share in the sufferings of this world. Surely we have something better to talk about than our TV shows, our clothes, or the hamburger we had for dinner last night.
A related side note: I had a German teacher in highschool that was adamant that “How are you?” is simply a greeting, nothing more. Bogus. It may have become a greeting, but it’s time for it to be redeemed by Christians, purchased back in expectation of deep-water conversation. The question is, are we secure enough in our Christ-union to actually tell people how we are? The other side is also true. Are we secure enough in our Christ-union to listen when others actually tell us how they are? So, “Wie geht’s, Frau?!” And i mean it.