Fantasy and reality

Have you ever watched a home renovation on HGTV and wondered how the spokesperson could look as crisp as the crease in a sergeant major’s uniform? If any of we mere mortals attempted the same thing we would be covered in sweat, sawdust, and grime. Yet there he is smiling into the camera, fresh as a daisy.

This is the difference between fantasy and reality. Preaching is distinctly an exercise in the latter.

Doing “church” is a lot like house renovation. The fantasy is that working with people is all sweetness and light; The reality is that working with people, real, problem-plagued human beings, is messy.

I once heard a discouraged preacher say “I’m tired of holding people’s hands.”

I am a preacher. I understand his frustrations.

But working with the church requires hands-on work. Babes in Christ are messy. Members of many decades remain nonetheless immature. Criticisms always look bigger than expressions of gratitude.

But the work must be done. Renovating people’s hearts is too important for quitting.

Those who lead may carry out responsibilities thanklessly. Criticisms abound, solutions and offers to assist are rare. Church members make mistakes, even commit sin.

But renovations can only occur in the chaos, dust, and noise of construction, and growing churches cannot be built without grit and deep determination. Behind our sunny spokesperson with the beautiful smile are workmen with callouses on their hands. Service is Christianity in blue-collar clothing. Anyone can demolish; it takes hard work and skill to build, and considerable sweat.

Now that’s reality.

“From now on therefore we regard no one according to the flesh,” Paul declared (2 Corinthians 5:16). There is an old teacher saying: “I reach into the future: I teach.” Well, I reach into eternity. I preach. It’s worthwhile work. The reality is that the results are eternal. Heaven is also a reality, and it surpasses fantasy considerably.

By the way, the hard work does not go unnoticed; the Lord himself sees it all (2 Peter 3:12).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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