August 05, 2009

Preaching to the Almost Dead

I had a very difficult experience this Sunday. I was preaching to a person whom I knew was going to be dead soon. They were taking themselves off of dialysis and would be dead four or five days later. There are many extenuating circumstances as to why they are making this choice but I still pleaded with them to change their mind. I want them to stay around.

At the altar kneeling down before I preached I wondered, "How can I preach when I am so consumed with the pain of seeing my friend in church for the last time?"

I cried out to God for strength. Oddly enough I was preaching on Romans 8:28, that grand promise that our God can do amazing things with awful circumstances.

My friend is believer in Christ...solidly. They have searched the scripture to find a prohibition for the removal of their own life support. They feel confident in their decision. I can't make a convincing argument to them and I certainly would be the last to condemn them to hell for giving up on life in anticipation of heaven.

But the more I thought about it, every week in a church our size I am preaching to someone who will be dead within a month. And all of us in the sanctuary will be dead within a few short years.

So I am always "preaching to the almost dead".

Today I did a funeral for a woman who never came to our church except one time. She is the mother of our newly adopted 19 year old daughter. It was Palm Sunday and we had many things going on and I had considered not giving an altar call that service and wait until Easter Sunday. But I then I sensed that is not what God wanted.

So I gave an altar call and to everyone's surprise, Darcy boldly raised her hand and then also courageously walked to the front to make a public profession. She was the only one who did so.

She had to work on Sunday for the next four weeks and on Mother's Day she had a sudden heart attack and died in her daughter's arms.

I am reminded of the urgency of the preaching of the gospel. I close this blog with another historical piece on the subject.

The same day the great fire raged throughout Chicago, the city’s most popular evangelist was preaching his heart out at Farwell Hall. D.L. Moody had established quite a following in the Chicago area, and on that infamous night he was preaching to a large congregation.

Moody dismissed the crowd and asked them to evaluate their relationship with Christ and return next week to make a decision for him. The crowd never returned, though, because the city was destroyed.

After the incident, Moody made a personal commitment to never again leave a church congregation without calling them to make a decision for Jesus Christ.