Christopher Chelpka

My Sermon Wasn’t Great: A Meta-Moment

I preached Ephesians 4:7-16 last Sunday night, and it was a challenge. It turns out Ephesians 4:7-16 is a difficult passage to interpret. As one commentator confirms, one can “get overwhelmed in the surge of scholarly work on these issues.” So helping my church navigate the exegetical options felt like trying to cross a stream with a baby on my back. I was leaping from rock to rock and trying not to fall. We all got a little bit wet.

This is ironic because in these verses, we learn that the ascended Christ blesses His church with ministers of the word. And yet, as I preached this message, there were moments where I struggled to communicate and didn’t feel much like a blessing. In other words, last Sunday, God charged me to preach on the blessing of preaching from a passage that is hard to preach! And then he charged the church to believe and this message from his struggling messenger.

If that makes you lift an eyebrow, I understand. It was humbling for us all and a bit poetic too. As I preached about preaching, I awkwardly sensed God’s commitment to shaming the wisdom of this world through the inelegance of his heralds.

Now hear me right. There’s a difference between inelegant preaching and bad preaching. We should expect the former and not abide by the latter. Christ’s heralds must deliver the message their Lord has given them. That’s their job. And when they fail, they must repent, taking by faith the promises of forgiveness and growth. Fail enough times and a preacher should seek another vocation.

But the requirement to clearly preach the truth doesn’t mean God will wait for His preachers to gain the skills of Winston Chruchill before he builds his church. Just the opposite: God will use their weakness to prove his power. For, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Or, as Paul reminds us, Christ sent him to preach the gospel, but “not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

I don’t want you to tell me my sermon was fine; I’m not looking for compliments. Nor am I looking for critiques; we can do that another day. I simply want to use this moment to remind the whole church, pulpit and pew, that we all must look to Christ alone for our life together. And where will we find him? According to Paul’s letters, we find Christ in the faithful, though often ineloquent, preaching of the gospel.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.

💬 1 Corinthians 1:26–31