As a preacher preaches, people can easily tell if what he says comes from his heart or simply his head. Along with that, they can easily tell how much he sincerely cares about them—the audience to whom he is speaking. Our words will only have an impact if, as we speak, the love that Christ has for them is clearly seen in us. How as preachers do we see people the way God sees them?
I believe from the depths of my heart it does not start when we step in the pulpit; it starts when we get down on our knees. I know because of what that did for me personally.
When I was in seminary, I became convinced and convicted that in order to be effective as an evangelistic speaker I had to see people the way God sees them. So, every night I knelt down alongside my bed and prayed just that, “God help me see people the way you see them.” I can sincerely tell you from that day on my ministry was never the same.
Matthew 9:36 became one of my favorite verses: “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”
Eight times in the New Testament, we are told that Christ was filled with compassion toward people. As we spend time on our knees, God helps us have that same compassion. This is reflected in not only what we say from the pulpit but how we say it. People quickly discern that we not only care about truth, we also care about them.
Practically speaking, how does this play out? For one thing, people become real people to the preacher—not just an audience. They are individuals who have real temptations, real struggles, real fears, real uncertainties, and real weaknesses. That’s why the compassion we have for them comes through so loudly and clearly, that people remark, “I felt like you were talking just to me.”
Second, people get the distinct impression that we are there to help, not simply to hound. To put it another way, we are not so much pointing our fingers at them, but putting our arms around them as they strive toward everything God wants them to be. Seeing people the way God sees them is essential. The place it starts is on our knees, asking God as broken and teachable preachers, “If people want to know how you feel about them, let them see that in me.”