It is always a joy to worship, and especially to preach, at an obviously Spirit-filled church. I preached in one such church last Sunday. Before the service ended, one of the elders asked the pastor if he could say some things to the congregation. The pastor agreed.
The elder began by urging the members to apply the lessons they’ve learned from my sermon. He even said that he has been a Christian for more than 30 years and that this was the first time he heard such a compelling challenge to become a missional church. Of course, I was encouraged to hear that especially because I preached in Spanish. (Actually, I READ my Spanish sermon…with conviction!)
However, the elder applied my sermon’s third point in a unique way. He mentioned that the television is la caja del diablo (the devil’s box) because it [television programs] is full of lies. He said that Christians would do better by giving up their television, and wisely invest their time and financial resources for missions instead. After the service, one of the church leaders explained to me the elder’s circumstances. Only then did I understand why he made such sweeping statement.
Context. Context. Context.
Without knowing the right context, we will always misunderstand each other. We will always complain, “You took my works out of context.” (Actually, even if we know the context, we can still misunderstand each other, right?) Experts have very good suggestions on how to communicate effectively. However, I like the example of the apostle Paul.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NIV)
Paul patiently demonstrated truth, love and transparency in his communication with the Corinthians. These may not wipe out all our communication problems, but they will surely help.
The church members knew the context of the elder’s convictions about television. They accepted his words as a loving reminder to be careful with what they feed their minds. And so, I thanked him for how he uniquely applied my sermon.
But it’s a good thing that he didn’t ask if I owned a TV set!
Photo credit: University of Waterloo