You are the Preacher or the Pastor of the hour. Your name has become the latest buzzword in Christian circles. Mention it and people go, “Yes, I’ve heard of him.” You are invited to speak at seminars and conferences, highly sought after, booked two to three years in advance. Your Facebook and YouTube statistics are impressive, not to mention the number of clicks and visits to your website. Your podcasts are well subscribed to and freely shared over social media platforms. Your meetings are well attended because people simply love to hear your anointed messages, and they leave wondering how you got those awesome downloads. Many queue up to be prayed for because you are prophetically sharp.
Sounds good, yes? Which minister wouldn’t desire a ministry and reputation of such impact and influence?
Interestingly, the Bible describes the seeming success of Ezekiel in pretty much the same way: “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.'” Ezekiel 33:30
As a preacher and teacher of the Word, I must confess that it is all too easy to assess the effectiveness of my ministry by numbers and positive comments. After all, who wants to preach to an empty room? We may declare that it’s not about numbers but truth be told, it is encouraging when the numbers are there. Also, although we are open to feedback and comments, no one likes to be told that his messages are boring, repetitive or ‘not anointed’. Without doubt, I believe Ezekiel did his best and he did exceptionally well. Similarly, we who have the privilege to declare God’s Word must do our very best and not hide behind spiritual or religious excuses.
And yet, more than just popularity and numbers, the Lord is looking for something else, something far more important than sell-out conferences and packed-out churches. In the next verse, He reveals the condition of the hearts of those who flocked to listen to Ezekiel: “So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.” Ezekiel 33:31
I think this verse is self-explanatory. I may not have spoken to thousands but I have been to meetings which involved thousands. The speakers are world famous and the atmosphere is highly charged. The amens are resoundingly loud and the altar call is almost always full. But I wonder what happens when the people leave these meetings? Only God knows. All I know is that what is usually reported is the number who attended and how great the meetings or messages were. Could it also be that those who attended “hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain”?
“Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.” Ezekiel 33:32
Ladies & Gentlemen, put your hands together, give it up, for Ezekiel … the ENTERTAINER! Lights, camera, action!
I know I’ve felt like that at times – the hours spent preparing a message, labouring over the Word, consulting commentaries, revising, and then revising again – somehow, the message is never done, never good enough. And then, I get up to the pulpit, deliver it with all my might, preach my heart out and it’s done. The crowd disperses, a few say ‘thank you for the message’ and it’s over. And you start all over again. Sure, it may have been a good message. But how many, I wonder, will actually act on the word? Have Christian meetings become entertainment centres where the audience enjoys what is presented, stirred and moved even, but leave without any desire for action other than to secure a booking or seat for the next show?
Sadly, with the choices and options available these days, preachers and pastors are pressured (directly or indirectly) to perform. If not, there is always the other church, the other ministry, the many other sermons online, the other offering bag. I will do my best, but God forbid that I should be just an entertainer tickling the fancies of the listeners. I will do my part to stay true to the Word and to deliver it without compromise. Even so, I cannot determine how the people will respond. We are so deeply entrenched in Church and Christian culture that many do not realise that they have become hearers and not doers of the Word, deceiving themselves (James 1:22).
Where am I going with this? I suppose I am just reminding myself to keep keeping on, to remain faithful in my assignment, to never to compromise, no matter how challenging it may be. The indicators of success are not numbers or accolades but faithfulness and fruitfulness; and that only happens when people move from merely being hearers to being doers of the Word. In the context of Archippus Awakening, it is when people are not just awakened, but move on to be aligned and then to be on assignment for kingdom. I cannot force or coerce anyone beyond how the Lord will convict or how they each will personally respond. I can only declare what I have been given to declare and these will have to decide their own course of action.
And in the end, no one can say that they didn’t know or that they were not told. Each will be responsible and accountable.
“And when it comes to pass – surely it will come – then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” Ezekiel 33:33