In my occasional dark nights of the soul, I wonder: “is what I’m doing anything other than some motivational speaking on a Sunday morning?”
Seriously: do people come to Good Shepherd or to any church simply to have their ears tickled and the hearts touched? To feel like they’ve made some connection with a vague “something” out there in the cosmos that helps them approach the coming week with a bit more hope and resilience?
Am I just a pseudo-sanctified Tony Robbins, albeit with half the hair, a quarter of the enamel, and a fraction of the following?
Well, it’s sure possible to fall into that trap, for me or for any other preacher. And if I succumb to that temptation towards motivational speaking then the dark night of the soul will become a dark month or season or year.
Which is why it is wise never to veer too far from Paul’s words in I Corinthians 15:
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
What did Paul communicate to them and then remind them of? The Gospel. The story, the history, the facts, the world-tilting events of the first Easter weekend.
And how did he communicate it to them? By preaching. Not by example, not by poetry, and not by motivational speaking. By preaching — heralding the story that shapes and defines each individual story.
So as long as I and my fellow Sunday preachers do that, well, we can leave the motivational speaking to others.
And become instead story tellers for the church.