Preaching to 'Us' and the Three Magic Words

I was once asked by a younger leader, "how can I teach or lead someone in something that I haven't figured out?  I would be a hypocrite!"

Now, the truth of this statement should not be ignored!  It is quite true that we cannot lead someone where we have not been ourselves.  It is quite true that we cannot teach what we do not know.  It is quite true that we cannot give away what we do not have.  However...

...my response to my friend was this, "when we preach Jesus, we will always be preaching something that is beyond ourselves.  This is not hypocrisy, but faithfulness to the Scriptures.  If we were only preaching what we had ourselves mastered, then we would not be faithful to the whole counsel of the Kingdom."

So how do we reconcile these two opposing truths?


I was taught by my pastor to preach to 'us,' and to rarely if ever preach to 'you.'  I have learned that there are rarely appropriate times to speak in the language of 'you people' but they are most certainly not when speaking difficult truths.  Even though I am a preacher, I am myself included in the congregation who is being preached to.  I must hear the words pronounced; I must receive the revelation, correction, admonition, challenge, encouragement, teaching, blessing, and wisdom.  Are you a teacher or a leader?  Number yourself among those who are taught and led!

Hearing my pastor preach this way modeled for me a humility before Christ, and before the church that I hope to emulate.  It also, however, provided an open door to hear the difficult call to carry the Cross of Christ.  The posture of humility from the preacher, including himself in the challenge, allowed me to be challenged as well.


Then we come to the three magic words...

...I will never forget them.  I heard them often on the lips of my pastor, but the first time I heard him say them, he was standing in the pulpit.  I had never heard a pastor utter these words before.  I don't think I had ever heard a Christian speak them, certainly not about spiritual or theological matters.  They were a shock to my system, but a good shock.  Like cool water on a hot day, or the unexpected arrival of beautiful music that perfectly matches the mood of the moment, or a word of encouragement when rebuke was expected, came these words:

"I don't know."

Again, the posture of humility allows for our walls to come down, and for Christ to be revealed before us in all of His glory, all of His mercy, and all of His judgment.  We can hear the difficult words of challenge, when they come with a recognition of our common need for His grace, His wisdom, and His Kingdom.

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