Evans Crawford writes: “There is a spiritual shift in the preacher’s soul so that the preacher does not preach at or to, but with the congregation.”
I think this is an important mindset to cultivate as preachers. Too many times we stand in the pulpit to tell people something they don’t know, or help them experience something they haven’t experienced, or simply to feel something that they haven’t felt. And we take on the mindset of a professor or leader teaching the student or the follower.
However, Crawford is pointing a change in mindset. Those who have incorporated this mindset see themselves not as addressing followers or students, but as preaching from and with the congregation. What difference will it make? We will stop seeing that one who needs condemnation and more see our own struggles (as a congregation and as a person) to live humanly and according to God’s desires. We will see our own failures in the failures of our parishioners. We will have the tears of empathy in our eyes when we have to condemn other’s sin. We will have the realization of the common human sinful nature that we all have when we preach and teach. We will recognize that that which we condemn is to a greater or lesser degree often operative in our own lives. We will stop being “self righteous in our condemnation of even self-righteousness.”
Teach and preach the truth, but just remember that you are the hearer as well as the presenter. And when that truth finds residence in your soul, then you will be ready to preach that truth that God has given you to preach.