By Ben Cachiaras
(From our series “The Best or Worst Advice I’ve Ever Received.”)
As a fledgling minister in my first senior ministry, I worked hard on my preaching. I don’t recall the biblical text I was working from, but I do remember feeling especially satisfied with the way the sermon came together one particular Sunday. It had three cleverly worded points, a couple of new insights pulled from “deep” commentaries, a funny illustration that was sure to get some yuks, and a moving conclusion drawn from an incident with my young son—people always like to hear about your kids, you know?
Dave Roberts was the head of the Bible and ministry department at Milligan College at the time, and served as chairman of our elders. I had asked him to help me become a better preacher by giving me feedback.
On the Sunday I delivered my masterpiece, I stood at the door and shook people out, accepting their congratulations. Then Dave Roberts stopped. I expected a moment when the old samurai would say, “Well done, grasshopper.” Instead, he grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, and asked, “Where was Jesus?”
I was stunned. And I had no answer. As great as my message was, it really never got around to Jesus. Somehow in my well-crafted work of art, I had forgotten Jesus.
A light went on in my brain and heart at that moment. Dave helped me see that every sermon, whatever the topic, can round the bases and come home to Jesus, the heart of the good news we are called to proclaim. Every sermon needs to get around to Jesus.
Since then, I’ve passed along the same counsel to many others. Read your text and make a beeline to Jesus. Whatever text drives the message, whatever point you are making—preach Jesus. It’s the best advice I’ve received or can share.
Some of the worst advice I ever received was from someone who knew better, but intentionally misguided me. When doing baptisms in a river for the first time, I was apprehensive about baptizing a woman who was considerably larger than I. The advice? “Just baptize her with her head aiming downstream.”
Ben Cachiaras serves as senior pastor with Mountain Christian Church, Joppa, Maryland.