The highlight was not in the preaching. After all, the preaching was just foolish me and a humble set of slides. The highlight was not in Christians brothers and sisters who came, yet it was a delight to have friendly faces. The highlight was not in the prayer session beforehand with the pastor who guided me to prepare the sermon, although her assistance was appreciated. The highlight was not in the experienced service leader or the well chosen sermon-matching hymns, yet they were grand.
The highlight was not in monologue. It was in dialogue.
A food van serving German sausage; photographed as I travelled home on Pitt Street Mall. The van is run by a Christian friend. Please consider purchasing from them.
The church group continues immediately after the service in a circle of chairs. They share a cup of tea and discuss the day's sermon. The service leader invited me to stay, for the whole, or for part, of the discussion group.
The highlight came in a series of spontaneous questions from members of the group. The questions all perchance centred on the first of the five application points. The application points are on this linked slide.
That application point - rich in textual reference to how God had restored the people of the city of Samaria using four destitute lepers - was that God uses unlikely agents.
- used Joseph, the least of his brothers, to give the Israelites a name in Egypt, and,
- used Moses, a murderer and a stutterer, to lead people out of Egypt, and,
- used David, a shepherd boy, with a sling to defeat a Philistine giant, and,
- used twelve most unlikely men to be Apostles, and,
- used an apostle; Peter, who denied Christ three times to build his church, and,
- replaced one of those Apostles with Paul; a man who described himself as the worst of sinners.
The questioners identified with their own brokenness and their own failings. They had warmed to the message that while they were least amongst people of the world they were capable of great work of God. For example, a man spoke of how in his steady path to deafness, and through his many medical appointments for cancer treatment, God was using him to share the Gospel with medical personnel.
It is in community that Christians most encourage each other. It was a pleasure to be part of the church's community and to see them care for each other and encourage each other. It was wonderful to seem them identify with just one single point of application and to see them deliberate on it.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The highlight was not in message delivery - it was in the hearer's absorption and understanding.
POSTSCRIPT: The day after writing this post I debriefed with the Pastor who had guided me through the sermon preparation. I took away three main feedback points and will be working on each of them. Our conversation quickly turned to a more important matter - after I had departed from the discussion group three persons; the pastor, a regular congregant and a irregular congregant continued on. The three had enjoyed discussion for some time. The irregular congregant; a Hindu by birth, gave his life to Christ. I care not to take any credit for this man's decision yet I recall that Charles Spurgeon, early in his preaching career, begged God to reveal to him one convert of his labours - the reward of preaching is when people change their hearts.
Note: all links good as at 20 July 2017
Note: I recently considered the balancing act of the suburban preacher in this linked post. I am not suggesting that I am anything like a suburban preacher as a blow-in has none of the pastoral or parish responsibilities.