by Paco Amador
(Editor’s note: This is the 3rd post in an 8-part series called “What’s Your Evangelism Style?“)
A young, intelligent, and enjoyable mother of an exuberant boy, Lucero has recently abandoned herself fully into the arms of Jesus, a true testament of the gospel’s power to transform hearts from darkness to light.
A few weeks ago she was telling me about her life before Jesus. “Tell me,” I asked, “what happened that finally made you trust your whole life into God’s hands?” (I never get enough of hearing the stories that flow in answer to that question.) Her response, however, took me aback.
“It was you!” she promptly answered. Puzzled, I simply waited for her to continue. Surely, I must have heard wrong. I don’t recall ever having a deep conversation about spiritual matters with her before. She continued:
Yeah. It was you. That Sunday you were preaching from Genesis about how when Jacob was returning to Canaan he had a choice to come back home with God or without God at the center of his life. Then you made a passionate call. You had tears in your eyes. You truly believed that this would be the most important decision that anyone hearing you could ever make….At that moment, I knew! I just knew God was speaking to me. I didn’t ever want to go back to my regular life without God in control. All I could do was surrender my life to Christ. And that was the day I crossed from death to life.
Silence. Shock. Puzzlement. That was my response to Lucero’s testimony.
How could such an amazing life transformation happen, just like that?
I didn’t know. She hadn’t told me. The only reason this conversation came up is because she was about to get baptized.
This is a repeated story. The mystery of preaching is indeed “a stumbling block to the Jews, foolishness to the gentiles.”
I am preacher. That’s what I do. Almost every Sunday for the last 15 years I have been preaching. Many times, I have finished preaching and wondered if anybody was listening. I know people hear…but was anybody listening? Several Sundays after preaching I have literally run to some empty room somewhere in our building and wept.…Tears of uncertainty. Tears of weakness.
Truth be told, I am not sure what makes me weep at those times. There is pain, there is weakness. I can’t hold back from preaching, I can’t hold back the tears.
In his gut-wrenching letter Paul describes himself and his ministry of preaching to the Corinthian church as an open letter being criticized by a disapproving audience, a spectacle before the world, a fool at the end of a parade.
Weakness on display.
Indeed, every preacher at some point has experienced the painful vulnerability of baring their soul before their audience as they grasp for words to describe the grace of the holy and loving God they serve and their sinful, struggling hearts panting for life.
Many times, as I finish preaching, I feel like I have disclosed my heart for all to see.
There is a sense of unfairness. No one else in that auditorium does the same, only the preacher, a fool on display.
The day I was commissioned into the ministry a group of good friends, companions in the adventure, laid their hands on my head and shoulders and prayed a simple charge into my life: “Paco, you have been called to reveal God’s heart to your community.”
That day I joined the community of “fools.”
“In my weakness,” Paul continues, “God displays his power.”
In this kind of weakness, and this kind of power, foolish preachers bare their souls. Christ crucified is lifted up. Sinners are called home. And Lucero abandons her heart to Jesus.
What a mystery.
For my wife and I, it’s a joy being Lucero’s pastor.
Paco Amador (@PacoChi7) pastors the New Life congregation in a Mexican immigrant neighborhood in Chicago. He enjoys running, dancing with his four daughters, wrestling with his three boys, and bike riding through the city. Pastor P and his wife, Sylvia, have been married for 20 years.