A pastor friend of mine was talking and interacting with a group of fifth-grade boys at church when one of them asked, “Do you practice what you preach?” The pastor immediately began to give his answer that yes, he tried to do everything he could to serve the Lord and be what God wanted him to be and to live his Christian faith. As my friend was explaining that all Christians should seek to follow the Lord and practice what they say they are, the young boy interrupted and said, “No, I’m talking about when you get your sermon ready. Do you stand in front of the mirror and practice what you’re going to preach?” My pastor friend realized the boy was asking about one thing and he was answering something else.
Both questions are good. Preachers, do we practice what we preach in getting ready to preach? Christians, do we practice what we preach in living the message we proclaim? That last question is the most important of the two. Truth is that there are no perfect preachers, pastors, priests, prophets, nor people in the pews. In fact, only one is perfect among us and He is the Son of God.
Still, we should to the best of our understanding and the best of our ability surrender to the Lord, live the message we preach, and practice what we preach. That is true regardless of which way you are defining, “Do I practice what I preach?” Either way, let me suggest that you include these dimensions in significant areas when you’re practicing your preaching.
One: As you practice what you preach, include a measure of grace. Regardless of whether you are preparing to deliver a message and practicing what you preach, or if you have preached and now face the responsibility and opportunity of living out what you preached, you will need the grace of God. It was the Apostle Paul who said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10), and whether we recognize it or not or celebrate it or not, every one of us are what we are by the grace of God.
Sometimes those of us who do preach may proclaim a message but not think through how it impacts the lives of people that are hearing it. It may come across as harsh, thoughtless, or even mean. It’s possible to declare truth and be on the right side of truth-telling, and at the same time be on the wrong side of love and care for the people that may have stumbled and fallen into the wrong that we’re describing. We need to always think through, pray through, and then practice through providing a measure of grace in issues with which we deal.
Two: As you practice what you preach, include a measure of race. When Jesus gave His Great Commission in Matthew 28, He said for us to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation. If you lose sight of the fact that God makes no exclusions to the Gospel or the people we’re called to reach — if there are certain races you’re thinking ought to be excluded from the Good News — you need to pause and revisit what Jesus said.
Do you think some races or individuals in certain races ought to be left out of the Kingdom? Be careful. It could be that people in those races think your race ought to be left out. If so, they along with you are wrong. The Bible clearly states that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Every tongue, tribe, color, ethnic group, whatever the race — Jesus wants them to hear the Gospel. The Kingdom of God and His wonderful church are open to
Three: Taste. At times in Scripture, the Word of God and even the presentation of the Word of God are pictured as honey, sweet to the taste and nourishing to the body. I heard a preacher recently say, “If you want to come here and hear me and have your ears tickled and hear that everything is sweetness and light and be handed sugar-coated candy, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you don’t want to come back, fine. Don’t.” I thought, that doesn’t quite fit with the heart of Jesus who said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not” (Matt. 23:37)! He loved even when He was rejected. He longed even for those who turned and walked away.
There’s a lesson for all of us in that little boy’s question, “Do you practice what you preach?” Whether it’s preparing to stand in the pulpit to preach or living as Christians in our family and community, every one of us need to think before God about Him having control of our lives and us practicing what we preach.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.