I have found that it is one thing to tell a group of people that they are violating the Word of God and living in sin, and a completely different thing to just come in and tick them off!

A preacher friend of mine started a sermon recently by indirectly (and probably not deliberatly) insulting the congregations denomination. Her first words in her sermon were so powerfully WRONG that most of the congregation never heard the truths of God she actually did speak to them.

Convicition is something different. Conviction comes when the preacher points out to me the Word of God, the Scripture (in context, please!) and then explains how this point applies to my world today! In the process of exlpaining this point, if they can show me (or help me to show myself, even better!) where I am failing to live up to this tenet of faith, OUCH! I get riled up and try to change. This is a good ticking off!

How often, I wonder, do we preachers lose the congregation before we ever get to that point? How many of us make the same mistake my friend made, and alienate everyone by implying or outright accusing them of being wrong, without showing a Scriptural basis for the accusation/implication? How often do we make a joke that turns of THE one person that the Holy Spirit has brought for the purpose of hearing the message?

How often do I stir the pot, and how often do I smash it? God, please, guide me to gentle stirring and not smashing. Help me, Lord, to avoid that word combination which closes off the ears of those who should hear. Help me to be sensitive even while I stir the pot!