Practice what you preach (or just practice?)

I was meeting with my GroupLife group on Sunday evening and Steve, one of our hosts, said, “You hear people say you ought to practice what you preach, but I wonder if we shouldn’t just practice.” Wow.

Of course that brought up a very good conversation about the virtue and pitfalls of preaching. Legislating faithfulness or proclaiming judgment are dangerous areas for us human beings and this ‘bad news’ method of sharing ‘good news’ seems dubious. But there is value in connecting actions to words. You can be good forever, but aren’t you – at some point or other – obligated to tell people why?

I suppose so (I am a preacher after all), but I really like Steve’s inclination to just practice. Here’s why. Preaching – especially outside the bounds of the Church – has a tendency to do more than share, it likes to hold agendas, to hustle people into its camp rather than their camp. Is it insecurity about the preachers’ camp that drives this, because your joining my camp rationalizes why I’m in this camp?

I imagine that if you are heaven-bent on practicing (excuse the pun) there will be a time when you will speak. Practicing your faith would mean not just acting from your source, but pointing to it. If I want to give people something very special, by practicing what is most valued by me, then I will want to connect them with it so they can receive it without having to go through me. It’s not about convincing anyone, it is about giving my best away. Practicing speaks when the time is right. It doesn’t strategically wait, but is just ready. That’s what’s so interesting about Jesus; he wasn’t about collecting people, he was ready to give what was needed and did it for our sake.

Was it Augustine who purportedly said, “Proclaim the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words”?



4 responses to “Practice what you preach (or just practice?)

  1. This one line sums it up well.”It’s not about convincing anyone, it is about giving my best away.”
    I have a hard time with the word “preaching”, growing up in the South, it reminds me of those roadside revivals. I never went to one but I would always see these people in their Sunday best in these little tents with this guy “preaching” his heart out for m-o-n-e-y from people who could barely afford to live. Getting them to give up their last dime and claiming to “Save” them in the name of Christ. That is what i think about when I hear the work “preaching”.
    Mostly I think of Church leaders as Pastors and they give a sermon but maybe those are just “fancy” words. How about “collaborating” or “teaching”?

  2. As a mom I know that my actions speak much louder than my words. Live well, eat well, be honest, trustworthy and kind to others and hopefully my girls will follow suit.

    It’s true that living out our values speaks volumes, but is that really enough? I think most of us need little direction, a little reminder now and again as to WHY the way we live matters. This is especially important in a materialistic society like ours… Having a good foundation, a good library of wisdom, will help us in times where we find ourselves not quite where we want to be–hopefully put us back on track.

    I also think that talking about the “why” is important the person talking, too. Helps us better understand ourselves and what we believe. Of course I don’t think that’s your goal as a pastor (well, at least not your main goal), but hearing you deliver a message makes those around you one step closer to doing it themselves. And that, my friend, just might be some excellent (and free) therapy.

  3. You both make good points, I guess I’m being overly philosophical about it. Maybe it should be said that when preaching and practice are understood to be two different enterprises, it is easy for preaching to become unhelpful. But when they are part of one another (i.e. to practice is to proclaim as clearly as possible, and to speak is to fulfill what one seeks to do) then they are healthy and whole.
    Yes, being a preacher, I turn to words very quickly (they are easier than works) and I have my role in the community to justify my words – I’m the one who is supposed to tell the story. So it probably sounds a little insincere for me to talk so strongly about praxis. I feel the hypocrisy myself. But I do feel strongly. And I hope, or aspire, to have my words grow from my works, my preaching from my practice, that what I say may be the Gospel in its most robust sense.

  4. Practice…yes we all need to practice, then there is that other saying “Practice makes Perfect” in life though that isn’t true, we will all never amount to perfection. For me I am OK with that but for others that is hard to understand. For example, I had coffee with a co-worker today who grew up Mormon.While we were at coffee I mentioned that I needed to pick some up for when my Mom was in town. He said that if his parents came to town he would have to hide it because they are mormon. He explained further that growing up he felt bad for people that he saw drinking coffee because he knew that they were not going to heaven. That seems silly to me but in the Mormon faith you have to be perfect, you have to live a certain way or you will not be with God in heaven. So this preaching is unhelpful in my belief but if you are Mormon and you live that way, you expect others to live that way they see that as healthy. How do we dictate what is healthy and whole? I think it is very personal. I am not going to live by the code of God thru Greg, you just deliver the information that drives me to think, or react to my relationship with God it doesn’t mean that you are always right. I am not putting you down at all, I enjoy most of your sermons and we agree sometimes but sometimes we don’t and in those times you are still pushing me to think, react, practice and have a personal relationship with God. I hope that all came out right.

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