Referring to preaching and teaching, a wise pastor once said, “don’t always be the hero of your own stories.”
That was great advice.
When I was younger, I heard so many anecdotes and illustrations from preachers and teachers that were unrealistic or highly embellished. I remember hearing one preacher talking about a conversation he had with someone on a plane during which he powerfully shared the gospel and “as that plane touched down in Atlanta that young man gave his heart to Jesus.”
I was quite impressed with this preacher and his unique spirituality. I also felt like a seriously inadequate Christian. I never had conversations like the one this preacher had, not really having the wisdom or boldness to turn a conversation so skillfully to eternal matters the way he did.
Not more than a year later I heard the exact same story from another preacher, with the very same conclusion.
My eyes were opened.
Preachers and teachers don’t inhabit some special plane of spirituality the way their stories sometimes indicate. They do a tragic disservice to people when they indicate otherwise.
When we tell stories or anecdotes that aren’t faithful to the complexities of our lives, we aren’t telling the truth and we aren’t helping anyone.
When you teach or preach, it’s okay to talk about how well things went once you put into practice this or that biblical principle. But make sure to talk also about the lessons you’ve learned, your struggles, and your setbacks. That sort of truth-telling will resonate with people and will invite authenticity from them.
And over time, such an approach will help everyone take themselves less seriously and also gain an increasingly clear vision of how incredibly gracious God is with people who don’t have it all together all the time.