These past 2 Sundays I preached at Youth Annuals in both Dallas and Austin. The churches were denominationally different (Missionary Baptist & African Methodist Episcopal), they are at different points in their life span, (a growing church & and a dying church), and their youth ministries were radically different, (strong hip hop youth ministry & a struggling youth ministry), but they had one thing in common. They were hurting. The families were struggling to maintain peace in their homes. They were losing loved ones to thug life, and in many ways they did not know what to do to stop the downward spiral.
How do you speak to these broken hearts? I tell you that it will take more than the pulpit. Preaching to broken hearts can only go so far. I understand the Word of God has the power and influence to change lives. But I am more interested in the Word Made Flesh who not only spoke but did.
I look at both of these churches and realize that one of them will be just fine because they have a youth minister who is active in the lives of his youth. The other church constantly pops up in my mind, because those broken hearts are not mending, those broken hearts have no one.
Honestly. I don’t want to preach to broken hearts. I get fed up with going in and out of churches just to break chains that are put back on when I leave. It reminds me of the parable-like story Jesus told in Matthew 12 about the demon who was cast out of someone but came back with seven demons more powerful that itself. Jesus, speaking about the people who witness the power of God but do not believe, says that they are like a person who is possessed twice and gets worse. They were cleaned up momentarily but did not accept the holistic healing and restoration of God.
This is what happens now when we preach to broken hearts. We come in on Sunday mornings and clean up the church with the message, we challenge them, we confront them, we comfort them, but without any further action, we let them alone to be repossessed by broken hearts, setbacks, depression, etc. Is our preaching in vain?
I would say to every preacher, young and old, that we must do more than just preach to broken hearts. We must transform broken hearts, we must guide our people to the healing waters. This takes more than preaching. This takes community involvement, this takes hospitality, this takes forgiveness, this takes God.
We cannot preach to broken hearts and change anything, but we can be the mouthpiece, the eyes, the ears, the hands, the feet, and the body of Christ, that submits itself to the will of God and allows God to work the miracles in the lives of all of us. To mend broken hearts, we must be open to being used by God.
I am infatuated with the show Lost. It is the story of a group of people stranded on an island after a plane crash. All are trying to survive on the island while they deal with their own life struggles. A man by the name of Jack is stranded on the island. He is a spinal surgeon, who is a perfectionist and feels he needs to fix everything. He has a hard time being a follower, he has a hard time letting go and allowing others to work.
I believe many preachers, especially young, have the same problem. While many in the older generation of preachers have completely put the work in the hands of God, sometimes even negating the work they must do, we admirably want to take more on than what we are capable of. We want to fix everything and everybody, but we must remember that God has all the power, and we don’t. We simply have the gifts and talents that God would love to employ so broken hearts can be mended. I don’t want to preach to broken hearts anymore. I want God to use me to transform broken hearts into mended ones.