Have you ever felt the need to speak up on something you cared deeply about?
What was that moment like for you? Did your heart flutter? Was your stomach twisted into a knot? Was a weight placed on your shoulders? Did you sound a bit different than you normally do?
The prophet Jeremiah said when God would speak to him and tell him to preach, that those words became like a “fire” caught up in his heart and bones (Jeremiah 20:9).
That had to be quite the experience.
I was not there to hear Jeremiah preach, but I imagine that when he spoke, he spoke with an unusual sense of urgency and gravitas. He would have spoken like everything was on the line.
And how could he not? He spoke of literal life and death matters that would shape the future of all who heard him and the nation he lived in. The Babylonians were coming, and Jeremiah knew they would kill, pillage, and exile his fellow Jews should they fail to return to God.
Such a message gripped every fiber of his being. Jeremiah knew everything was at stake, and I believe he would have spoken in a way that would make most of us think Jeremiah was unhinged. We probably would not invite someone like Jeremiah to speak at a Saturday morning men’s fellowship breakfast.
From Oracles To Orators
As I observe the Christian landscape in America today, I feel this sense of burden is not to be found with many preachers. Things are often very professional, cute, and safe. The preachers sermon would get a good grade in a seminary classroom.
But in taking this approach, I can’t help but feel that the oracles of the church have been replaced with orators. There are few Jeremiah’s.
That’s not to say there aren’t some animated preachers that put on a stylistic show full of frantic pacing, heavy breathing, and loud outbursts. There certainly is that. One can preach with theatrical flair and showmanship, and still have no burden about them. Just look at guys like Steven Furtick and TD Jakes if you want an example of that (just my opinion).
But style isn’t burden. Style can be faked, copied, packaged and sold to others.
Burden is something that grips you on the inside, and takes hold of you before you attempt to take hold of others. How burden shapes your mannerisms will differ from person to person based on their unique personality. But one thing is for sure, burden will transform your delivery and cause you to take risks with what you have to say. It’ll make you speak like nothing else matters in that moment but what needs to be said.
I believe the burden seen in the likes of Jeremiah and others we read of in the Bible can only come from one place: the belief that what you have to say is somehow from God.
That’s not to say you need to believe you have a literal prophetic utterance to give for everyone to hear. But you should do as the apostle Peter taught and, “speak as one who speaks the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).
Such goes beyond merely giving a friendly homily or 3 points of exposition in a perfunctory manner. That’s not to say such speaking won’t include such things. This isn’t an issue of style or methods as much as it is an issue of genuine belief.
If you are preaching, do you truly believe what you have to say is from God, or don’t you? And if so, do you believe something is at stake in your preaching?
If so, wrestle with that. Let those words burn into you like they burned into Jeremiah. Don’t just deliver a message, be one with that message, and speak out of the fire within.