During the 1950s and 60s Art Linkletter’s House Party was destination television. From coast-to-coast, viewers would camp in front of their Zeniths, gaze into black and white picture screens, and laugh along with the host as Kids Say the Darndest Things …
Art: Can you tell me what love is?
Kid: It’s a feeling you feel when you feel a feeling you never felt before.
Art: How does love happen?
Kid: You get shot with an arrow. But the rest of it isn’t as painful.
Art: Did your folks give you any special instructions before the show today?
Kid: Yes. I’m not supposed to tell about Dad’s gambling party every Thursday night.
Art: Why not?
Kid: Dad says cops have a law against gambling.
Art: They do? Why?
Kid: Because cops don’t have enough money.
Art: What does your dad do?
Kid: He’s a judge.
Art: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Kid: An airline pilot.
Art: What would you say to your passengers if all four engines stopped while you’re in the air?
Kid: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name…
Ask the right question and you’re bound to get a revealing answer.
Perhaps that’s why questions were a key component of Jesus’ teaching ministry. His questions served as a lens into the Master’s thinking, and a verbal fork-in-the-road to those whom He asked.
For example, when Jesus wondered aloud, “Who do men say that I am?” He was seeking public consensus of His deity. But the bigger question was, “Who do you say that I am?” Here He was asking His disciples for their personal convictions. Did they really believe in Him?
He posed these questions just outside Caesarea Philippi, Israel’s northernmost boundary. It was far away from the negative thinking within Jerusalem’s religious beltway; a perfect spot to survey the unbiased local perceptions of the young evangelist.
Now, fast-forward those same questions to us today. Who do we say He is? Our answer will expose the plumb line of our preaching.
Today’s pulpits tend to showcase two distinct styles of communication. First, preaching by public consensus, i.e. taking a congregation where they want to go; and secondly, preaching by personal conviction, i.e. taking a congregation where they need to go.
It doesn’t take a Phi Beta Kappa to know which is easier. But to simply give people what they want is to ignore our mandate to “Preach the Word.” To do otherwise is to shirk our role of leadership of the flock, and instead follow them.
But dealing with their needs instead of their wants has never been easy.
Just ask Aaron about his short stint as leader while Moses was away. The multitude wanted to build a golden calf. When asked why he complied, Aaron’s only defense was, “The people made me do it!”
Just ask Peter about his spontaneous answers to an inquisitive young girl while Jesus was on trial. Speaking up in the upper room was easy; Peter was with friends. But outside, among the rank and file of unfamiliar faces, he fell apart.
From the opening moments of Pentecost the church was intended to be distinct from the world. God designed us that way—to praise Him, to follow Him. Conforming to the world doesn’t compute with His purposes.
His bride was never meant to be one of the girls.
Whereas we’ve been called to be separate, we seem terrified to be different. We feel the need to popularize the church, to broaden its appeal. Rather than claiming our spiritual birthright we work overtime to hide our distinction.
If there was one constant to the Savior’s teaching it was a warning that the gospel is not cheap, that following Him requires letting go. And yet, even with that disclaimer, the multitudes came from far and wide to hear Him speak. That’s because the multitudes desperately wanted something the world couldn’t offer.
Our churches are no different today.
It’s no wonder He continues to ask, “Who do you say that I am?”
Senior Vice President
of MinistryRelations© Copyright 2012by Ron Walters