By Jay Sanders
On any given Sunday, your church is filled with people who are hurting. They need hope and the good news of Jesus Christ. They things they struggle with are burdens you can help carry, and I hope this post serves as a reminder.
He usually sits on the back row.
When he was in the Marines, he could somehow manage to get a few hours of sleep in bombed-out buildings in the middle of the desert with the sounds of war all around him. Now that he’s back and living in a house in a quiet neighborhood, he can’t sleep at all. He lives in almost a continual state of panic.
The skills that made him a hero in Afghanistan haven’t translated well here in the states. What little work he’s been able to find isn’t steady.
In front of him there sits a much older man.
He lost his wife to cancer last month. Their children who are now grown live far away. He’s outlived all his friends. He’s lonely and scared. Thanksgiving—a holiday he once loved—now looms like a dark cloud over the horizon.
Up a few rows and on the other side of the aisle is a single mom.
Divorce was the last thing she wanted but convincing her husband to walk away from his other life and his other woman to stay at home with her and the kids proved impossible. She constantly worries.
She worries about paying the bills. Her heart worries about what impact the divorce will have on her kids. She worries about what people think when they see her in church.
Near the front sits a couple.
They haven’t been married long. They’re happy. They love each other and they love Jesus. But they’re hurting. As much as they try, they can’t seem to win the battle against infertility.
They struggle with contentment—struggling to not judge parents who seem like they aren’t doing as good of a job as this couple would if they were able to have a child. Most of all, this couple struggles on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Pastor, you know these people.
The finer details of their stories may be different, but you know them. They’re in your church every Sunday. At least one of them is seated on every row in your church.
As best as you can, get to know them and listen to them.
And speak the gospel to them every time you preach.
Please, I beg you, don’t open your pulpit to politicians pandering for a vote. Don’t waste your preaching time trying to impress your old college and seminary professors who aren’t even there. Don’t use your sermon as a vehicle for picking fights with those who oppose you.
Just preach the gospel.
Preach it to sinners who need salvation. And preach it to the saints who need reminding of who they are in Christ.
Just preach the gospel.
The struggling veteran doesn’t need to be told who to vote for. Talk radio and nightly news shows can do that for him. You have what he needs. Give him the gospel.
The lonely widower, the struggling single mom, and the couple wrestling with infertility don’t care how well-crafted your sermon is, how many references to the original languages you can throw in, or what prominent leaders in your denomination or at your old school think about you. They just need the gospel. Give it to them.
Pastor, as you prepare and as you preach, remember the people who are hurting. They’re there and are listening to you. They’re looking for hope. God has a word for them, and you are His instrument of delivery. What an honor. What a burden.
It’s a burden you don’t carry alone.
It’s a burden worth carrying.
JAY SANDERS (@jaysanders714) is the senior pastor of Towaliga Baptist Church in Jackson, Georgia.