The Preacher’s Responsibility

“In some ways, I really don’t feel responsible for what the people of my church believe, but I feel very responsible for what they hear.” – Nadia Bolz-Weber

Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber is an ordained Lutheran pastor and founder of the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. The quote above is a common theme that she has shared across many interviews (this particular formulation comes from a Patheos interview with Brian McLaren). It is a simple yet powerful reminder of the role and responsibility of the preacher, teacher, worship planner, small group leader, and really anyone who seeks to share their faith.

It simultaneously raises and lowers the bar. More accurately, it reminds us that there are two different bars, and we are often measuring ourselves by the wrong one. Just as in evangelism we do not convert people but rather lead them to Christ and trust God to do the heavy lifting, we do not change people’s minds. However, we are called to be instruments of the Word of God and channels through which people encounter not simply our own understanding of the Scriptures but also the church’s rich history, tradition, and theology.

So, perhaps, this perspective can take some of the pressure off of those of us who struggle when our people don’t seem to be “getting it.” However, it should remind us of the importance of our task. When we don’t take sermon or lesson preparation seriously, or when we throw away moments in a service or event, we are responsible for what they don’t hear. So, let’s all commit to refocusing on the right bar–what our people hear–and trust God to take care of the rest.

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