As a preacher and a (sometimes) writer, the one question that plagues me is “Is anyone listening?”
Certainly there’s a measure of vanity in there: it’s as much about there being an audience for “me” as for whatever it is I happen to be talking about at the moment. But presuming that my motives are right (no matter what I say on that, you’ll ultimately never really know), there’s also a worry that the message I preach (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) is being missed by someone who really needs it–from a believer who is discouraged or in sin to a poor soul who is in danger of eternal damnation.
I got a bit of encouragement this afternoon on this front when I took a look at the recordings I had uploaded to Archive.org. This is the site where I can (for free!) host all of my sermons, podcast episodes & Sunday School teachings. I don’t often hear from anyone who has listened, so I don’t organically have any sense of what the impact is.
But I did a quick search (you can do the same here … go here: https://archive.org/search.php?query=Matthew%20Tilley&sort=-downloads&page=1) and found some of my sermons and lessons had hundreds of downloads.
Now that doesn’t mean they were actually listened to or that they were at all understood. But someone, somewhere (actually a lot of them!) took the effort and time to pull the file down from the web. So that’s encouraging, personally. Although it does feed the ego a bit.
What’s more encouraging as I think about this is the the very concept of “the foolishness of preaching.” For a couple of thousand years, Christian preachers have been raising their voices warning of judgment and pointing the savior. And the prophets of the Old Testament had done something similar for years before that. By the looks of things, they weren’t (aren’t) heard either. But the fact is, almost to a man (including John the Baptist who was preaching in the desert!) they all had at least hundreds of “downloads” … that is, they had hundreds of people exposed to their preaching, who had opportunity to hear the truth and who even made the effort to avail their ears to the truth.
And down through those same years, there were some who were saved, some where encouraged, some were helped, some were restored. And over the years (past, present, future), that will turn into an innumerable multitude (check out Revelation 5).
What is that all about?
One thing it wasn’t about … it wasn’t about Moses, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Paul, Polycarp, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Whitfield, Spurgeon, Billy Graham, John Byerly, Russell Moore, Matthew Tilley or you. Yes, God used each man (and many, many others) to preach His truth and to change lives. God does draw large groups at times (as testified by those so-called megachurches with thousands of people or those big crusades where thousands are saved), but its most often one or two at a time, here and there.
And He continues to use “the foolishness of preaching,” that inefficient, not usually very good, human and flawed method of getting His truth to the world. And it works. Slowly, but surely. But it works.
So … is anyone listening?
I have no idea, not really. But it’s for me to obey. I will likely see some fruit if I’m faithful. But the fruit is His and it will come in its time … and it will be in spite of me.
Glory to Christ alone.