Note: This is the second post on a series in The 21st Century Minister section. To read the first post, click here.
I was excited. I was very excited. I was going to finally see the man that I respected so much. I tried so hard to get my roommates excited. They hadn’t heard of him before, so their expressions had been indifferent each time I chattered endlessly about the teaching ability of this man. I had stumbled upon his teachings the year before and simply fell in love with the way he taught God’s word. He spoke with such calmness that the authority could be detected in his voice. I respected him. My fellowship was finally inviting him, this great icon in my head, to one of our major programs. I was enthusiastic. I was finally going to see him and listen to him live. My heart was open from the very first day of the Conference. I sang and worshipped God with joy in my heart. I was ready to be blessed. I was ready to receive from God’s servant. Even the devil’s most experienced minions weren’t going to take away my blessings. But what I experienced wasn’t what I had been expecting for long. I experienced what my Dad had indirectly told me to expect years before.
My Dad and I discuss about matters of State and Religion whenever we get the chance. He is a wonderful conversationalist. He succeeded in passing that trait unto my brothers and I. My Dad loves education. He wasn’t so privileged, but he never ceases to praise those who give their all to get the best education available for themselves and/or their children. On one occasion, he told me how a particularly popular ministry in Nigeria didn’t ordain pastors who didn’t have their bachelor’s degree. Come what may, regardless of the call of God upon a minister’s life, a bachelor’s degree is a ministerial prerequisite.
I know that my Computer Science degree will have little or no effect upon my pastoral ministry should God instruct me to have one. But many ministries these days will probably consider me to be somewhat better than those without degrees. And when these ministries employ pastors without degrees to serve in their ministries, it is almost certain that these pastors will never pastor any big church – they might pastor the churches in Maiduguri, but not the ones in Maitama.
The educated pastors also seem to have better control of the congregation when they preach. Do they study on how to make men respond to their sermons or is it entirely the work of the Holy Spirit? I remember the sermons I used to listen to when I was much younger. They used to be simple, with fewer words and lesser complexities. I could paraphrase the preacher’s words and write down his definitions the way that I wanted. I could relate with God’s word when his servants taught. Life was easier. Life still is, actually.
Many of the young believers that I know today will not sit under a sermon if the preacher occasionally fluffs. They would argue that they need “strong words” – meat, according to Hebrews 5:12. Sometimes the meat that they refer to is simply coherency in words. Better know how to string the perfect words together and drop nice punchlines, else you’d be feeding your congregation with milk fit for babes.
That night (the first day of the Conference), I heard so much “word”, much of which I can’t remember today. I didn’t understand 50% of the entire sermon. And I was supposedly an assistant Bible Study Coordinator in my home church! What happened to the days of birds, sparrows and flowers? Has our education affected our sermon delivery? I know that we should never compare ourselves to the White folks. English is a foreign language to us. It should be used with due consideration for every congregation. I know that my grandmother or my cousins from the village cannot attend church with me. I would have to take them to a simpler church.
Well, what do I know? I’m just a layman. I might not know spiritual things as I ought to. I’m just the guy who plays the keyboard. But I do know that I love simple sermons. I have a saying that I love to tease my friend, Divine, with. I would tell him, “If you can’t explain any biblical concept or truth to a mad man, you haven’t succeeded in your teaching ministry.” Harsh, I know. But ministers have serious work to do. What’s the point in delivering a mighty sermon if no one understands what you said half of the time? I’d rather have the entire congregation understand my words than a select few, who previously have knowledge of spiritual things.
Dear 21st Century Minister, the sermons that ever changed history were simple ones. They weren’t full of the intellectualism that we see today. Those sermons weren’t bent at making words rhyme. They were simple sermons that came from simple men, most of whom were uneducated and unschooled. The great A.W. Tozer was almost rejected the opportunity to be ordained as a minister because he simple wasn’t qualified. No pastoral training, no impressive educational records.. simply a heart running after God, a soul deeply desiring its Saviour.
Always remember that Jesus preached with simple words. Even the great Apostle said that he taught God’s Word with simplicity and with power. I believe that it is safe to assume that in simplicity lies power. I’d rather speak two words in pidgin and see lives transformed than use all the words from the dictionary and lead a dead congregation.
May God help us value and love the simple. Amen.
© Eleazar Maduka, 2017