Over the past decade there has been a great reemphasis on the idea of "preaching the Gospel to yourself." Why? Because we are in a perpetual identity crisis. Pursuing power, popularity, preeminence... So the idea of preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily as the most important daily habit we have, as Mahaney and others have written, is paramount. We've all been reminded of Luther's phrase that we should beat the Gospel into our heads continually, as our tendency to forget gospel truths is also paramount.
However, the term preaching can be a bit misleading. The problem is, not everyone listens when someone is preaching. How many times have you preached a message and you yourself even forgot what it was about? It’s a pretty sad commentary for those of us who preach weekly. And what about the hearers? Unfortunately for us pastors, those who were in our Sunday service oftentimes have the same problem. By lunchtime after the morning service, the vast majority don’t even remember what we preached.
If you preach the Gospel to yourself, you need to ensure that you are listening to your own preaching. This requires reflection. This may appear as if we are splitting hairs on words. But we're not. (Good thoughts here). The Christian leader mustn’t only preach the Gospel to himself, he reflects on the Gospel every day. He reflects on Gospel truths, he meditates on the Gospel.
In my experience, if there is a defining issue in the character of the Christian leader, if a line needed to be drawn in the sand between the Christian leader who lives on mission, and functions well in his context; and those who do not live on mission, and do not function well, it is this point. The ability to not only preach the Gospel, but to reflect on the Gospel.
The word reflect perhaps at first glance, appears to be a weak word. The activity of reflection seems subservient to an activity like preaching, especially in the mind of a passionate communicator. A communicator likes to think of preaching. Preaching is associated with the excitement of church life, of us using our gifting to communicate to others.
Yet reflection requires a level of meditation on the truths of God that preaching in and of itself may not. Reflection requires time. It requires a prayerful spirit. It requires meditating on truths and applying them to everyday situations. It requires heart exegesis. And as one friend of mine has said, it requires an excavation of the soul.
The truth is, our souls require this exegesis; our souls require meditation on the truths of God. As Chan Kilgore wrote, "For us to live in full view of the cross and allow the truth of the gospel to define every moment of our lives, we must know it well. We must remind ourselves of it often." This requires deep reflection.
The Christian leader doesn’t only preach the Gospel to himself, he reflects on the Gospel every day. Why? To know God and to know ourselves. After all, all of the attributes of God are found in the Gospel. All of the characteristics of God are seen in the Gospel. All of the fruits of the spirit, that we want to bear; and the gifts of the Spirit that we eagerly desire, or should eagerly desire; all of these can be found in the Gospel. And all of them require reflection.
Reflecting on the Gospel means we reflect on God’s attributes, God’s character, God’s gifts, and above all, we reflect on God’s story – creation, fall, redemption and restoration.
In the context of pastoral leadership, reflecting on the Gospel is a non-negotiable. We must aim for the heart in our daily devotions, in our pastoral preparation. It is impossible to be a missional leader who does not reflect on the Gospel, because it is our communion with the Spirit that clarifies the very tasks of our daily mission. We must reflect on the Gospel.
So with this idea of reflecting on the Gospel in mind, I'll be posting four key implications in the coming days. Four implications to our ministries, our churches, and most of all to ourselves.
1. Reflecting on the Gospel reminds us of our identity.
2. Reflecting on the Gospel reminds us of our security.
3. Reflecting on the Gospel ensures our integrity.
4. Reflecting on the Gospel enables us to order our priorities.
Stay tuned for part 2.