Pastors: ‘Listen and Trust God Is Walking Alongside You’

Post a Comment » Written on February 3rd, 2009     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

CHICAGO, IL (February 3, 2009) – You should “first have a predisposition to listen” and then trust that God is walking alongside you as you proclaim his word.

That’s the message pastors heard during Monday evening’s opening worship service of the Midwinter Pastors Conference, delivered by Judy Peterson and Efrem Smith.

“If we’re going to discern exactly what we’re to speak, then we must listen broadly….It is imperative that we know what is going on in the world around us.”

The pair preached from the story of Jesus encountering the downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Peterson, campus chaplain at North Park University, began the evening of tag-team preaching. She addressed the need for Christians to listen to others, including people outside the church as well as other Christians.

“If we’re going to discern exactly what we’re to speak, then we must listen broadly,” Peterson declared. “It is imperative that we know what is going on in the world around us.”

“Even Jesus listens in the text before he speaks,” Peterson noted.

Non-Christians also have vital words to share that can help Christians to better understand scripture, Peterson suggested. Listening to people “in the world” will help Christians to ask different questions.

“God is much more than the little words we have created,” Peterson declared.

Peterson also exhorted the attendees to listen to other Christians with whom they disagree. Doing so will help bring correction to their own interpretations of scripture.

“I hate to be wrong,” Peterson acknowledged. “From the time when I was young, I loved to be right. As a child, a disagreement in my house was an invitation to battle. I loved a good debate from the very beginning. From the time I was young, I just knew I wanted to be right as much as possible.

“So some people would say religion was a good field for me to go into because I love to be right,” she added.

Christians, however, should be recognized for their ability to listen and receive correction. “I like to push correction away and rationalize my own interpretation,” Peterson said. “Not all correction is from the devil. We should not be binding it all and sending it away,” she added, drawing laughter from the gathering.

Peterson emphasized that none of what she was encouraging could be done without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To not be guided by the Spirit, she added, would even be dangerous.

Where Peterson emphasized listening, Smith stirred the crowd with his exhortation to speak with authority and accountability to God amid hard times. “We need to be sure we are shining examples in our proclamation of the hope of God and in the core identity that Jesus is alive,” he asserted.

“We need to be sure we are shining examples in our proclamation of the hope of God and in the core identity that Jesus is alive.”

“I’m not in denial about the crisis around us,” said Smith, who is pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church, a multiethnic congregation in Minneapolis, and serves on the board of the Sanctuary Community Development Association. However, “We sometimes take the crisis too far. That’s what these two disciples were doing as they walked down this road.”

Addressing male pastors, Smith said, “Please listen to some Godly women.” He recalled that women were at the gravesite first and were the first to proclaim that Jesus was alive.

“Weren’t no brothers there, no men. Sisters!” Smith continued. “These guys are talking to the resurrected Jesus about what the sisters said, but they didn’t listen strong enough!

“Now if you are a pastor at a church that is not ready to receive a woman preacher, then that’s your fault,” he declared, much to the laughter and applause of the audience.

“I can’t believe this,” Smith continued. “Sometimes our denomination sends out letters to churches and they say, “If you let a sister come preach at your church, we’re going to help cover the expenses. Now I’m thinking to myself, I wonder how I would feel if they sent out a letter to all the white Covenant churches and said, if you will please let a black man preach at your church, we will help cover the expenses – you know I wouldn’t be happy that day.”

To loud applause, he declared, “Many of you need to go onto the Covenant website and read every resolution we have put up there since 1976. Did you not get the memo?

“My preaching must be relevant without watering down the scripture, because I’m willing to be held accountable by the one who explains it to me,” he said. “I’m not preaching for a popularity contest. I’m not preaching for the cool factor. I’m not preaching to try to quench the thirst of some postmodern generation that wants me to sit in a circle and light a candle with them. This is not why I’m preaching! I’m not preaching a black word! I’m not preaching a white word! I’m not preaching a suburban word!

“I’m preaching based on accountability to the one who will explain to me what it is I’m preaching about because we need people to proclaim God’s word in these days.”

“I’m so glad that in these days, God is one the road with me!” he shouted. “I’m so glad I’m not preaching by myself!”

In the end, he encouraged the pastors with the reminder, “You are not on the road by yourself.”

Matt Nightingale, pastor of worship arts and communication at Access Covenant Church in Houston, Texas, and the North Park Gospel Choir led the gathering in rousing music.

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