One of the things we have done on sabbatical is visit several different churches. To date we have visited 5 churches, each from different denominational backgrounds. While there have been many important and helpful observations one of the larger themes that is beginning to emerge from our experience is that some churches seem to preach themselves and others seem to preach Jesus. What I mean by that is during our time with two of the churches the focus was on the church itself. They constantly spoke the name of the church encouraging people that they would receive what they needed through them. The focus was clearly on their church and what people could receive from them and what they wanted to see the people do. They seemed to preach themselves.
In the three other churches it was refreshingly different. Rather than preaching themselves the preached Jesus. In fact, in two of them, though they were high-profile churches, they barely spoke the name of the church. On the other hand, over and over and over again they talked about Jesus. They spoke about his desire and ability to forgive sin and about how his death and resurrection make that possible. They presented him over and over as the only path to a relationship with God and as the means to a transformed and fulfilling and meaningful life. They intentionally drew attention to Jesus and deflected attention away from themselves.
In 2 Corinthians 4:5 the apostle Paul said this to the church in the ancient city of Corinth,
“For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord. . . .”
Folks, the truth is that we are not the answer, Jesus is. Only Jesus can free us from sin. Only Jesus can heal physically and emotionally and mentally. Only Jesus can give eternal life. Only Jesus can bring good and meaning out of the bad things that happen to us. Only Jesus can give our lives eternal significance. Only Jesus can give us a life of abundance in a fallen and broken world.
So, Jesus is using my experience in these churches to evaluate my own life. Where am I presenting myself as the answer or as the savior of the situation. Where am I preaching myself rather than Jesus? It’s anywhere the focus and conversation is too much about me and what I think or what I can do or what I have accomplished. I can be just like those churches. It’s either mostly about me or it’s mostly about Jesus. And the truth is it’s often too much about me.
Lord, help my life be focused on “preaching” Jesus. Let me make much of him and less of me.