Could there be any more depressing of text to the heart of a preacher than Ezekiel 33:30-32?
“As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.” –Ezekiel 33:30-32
One of the most painful things for myself and I am sure other pastors as well, is to observe folk that “like” our sermons but don’t take them beyond the walls of the church. Ezekiel in this text is told that the downfall of the people of Israel is in part due to the fact that they listen to the words of God but fail to put them into practice. How many of our churches are struggling, how many of our homes are falling apart, how many lives are personally crumbling because of the very same reality in our day? In fact this is such a key point of the text that God tells Ezekiel this twice,
“My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice.”
“Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.“
What an indictment of the church in North America! What an indictment of the Laodicean Church in North American!
But wait pastor, before we agree to quickly!
Something that is even more disappointing and indicting is this: I think there are actually pastors that preach expecting people to hear their words, but never put them into practice. There are pastors that prepare like they are just filling time. Pastors that study like they have nothing new to learn. Pastors that pray for habit not for conviction. Pastors that step into pulpits each week because it is their job, rather than their Divine calling.
As a preacher I want to say to all congregants, and hopefully this is true of your pastor as well:
- I don’t want you to “like” my sermons. I want you to apply them.
- I don’t want my sermons to generate accolades, I want them to generate life change.
- I don’t want you to remember the funny, I want you to remember the Biblical.
- I don’t want you to follow me, I want you to follow Jesus.
If we are, if I am preaching sermons that are only worth a surface level appreciation, if I am preaching sermons that are only worth a pat on the back, if I am preaching sermons that only entertain & do not take you to the Bible then tell me/us so that I/we can change.
The church in North America is dying…not a slow death…a rapid death! We are falling like Israel! In part because, “They Hear Your Words, But They Do Not Put Them Into Practice!”
Congregants be accountable–say, “Enough is enough! I will not pass through another sermon, another Sabbath, another worship service unchanged, without application to my life.”
Pastors be accountable–say, “Enough is enough! We will not prepare one more message, preach one more sermon, teach one more lesson without the expectation of life change amongst God’s flock.”
Enough is enough for all of us!