Not long ago, my family and I were visiting a church and I had the chance to preach in the evening service. During the fellowship time afterwards, someone commented to my wife that she appreciated the fact that I delivered the Word to them. What she meant is that I preached the Bible in a way that fed and ministered to her. One would hope that all sermons elicit such a response, but there is an interesting background to that comment.
Apparently this church has had a number of missionaries come through and preach, but not all of them delivered the Word. Instead, the sermon was more about them and their ministry, than about the Bible. Not that the Bible was absent, of course, but the focus was upon what the missionary was doing “out there” rather than feeding the congregation from the Word of God. It is not that these missionaries didn’t know how to preach either, because some of them were ordained teaching elders.
As a missionary myself, I am all for sharing with churches what is happening with me and my ministry out on the mission field. If I am not given some other public forum to present my missions work, it can be tempting to squeeze it into the sermon. But the sermon is not the time to do it. The sermon is for feeding God’s people with God’s word. Since I am a missionary, illustrations and stories from the mission field might show up in my sermon as a means of explaining or applying the text. But the those missionary anecdotes are supporting actors, not the star of the sermon.
If I preach at a church and don’t have a chance to present about my missionary ministry, that’s okay. If a missionary simply preaches the Scriptures, without presenting his work more specifically, that says a lot about the missionary in another way. It says that he values God and His Word more than himself. It says that being a blessing to others is more important than them being a blessing to him. I also believe that if people are blessed by what a missionary preaches at home, then they will conclude that this is the type of thing that he is doing “out there”. They will get a taste of the type of ministry that they would be supporting if they decide to pray for and/or donate to this missionary preacher.
If I am invited to preach, I’ll preach God’s Word. Missionaries are fundamentally servants of the church, and if a church asks me to serve by preaching the Word, then that’s what I need to do.