Of all the societal and psychological changes brought on by the dominance of social media, one of its most interesting effects is on our language. Headlines have been replaced by hashtags as a means of capturing the essence of a story, and terms can be coined, duplicated and globally disseminated in a matter of minutes. Many of these are meaningless memes, but some carry an important message. Humour accounts now regularly use the words ‘You had one job’ to describe the abject folly of an individual or organisation who fails at a single, simple job assigned to them, and the phrase serves as a valuable means of showing just how readily we miss the mark as human beings.
When it comes to preaching, ‘You had one job’ can be a helpful motto, and a measure of how the minister understands their message, their manner and their function within the body of Christ. The preacher is a man of ‘one job’, namely the declaration and application of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of Christ Jesus, the salvation of souls, and the edification of believers. Behind this task lies a complex network of linguistic and contextual study, prayerful meditation and humble dependence on Christ, but it is essentially ‘one job’.
How easily this task is wilfully sacrificed or lazily lost in pulpit ministry; how often we might write across much of the preaching we hear, and some of the preaching we offer, ‘You had one job, and you blew it!’
So a preacher enters the pulpit and rather than giving the plain sense of the passage in front of them uses the Word of God as a springboard for what they really want to talk about on a given day. Or another preacher reads their text and then goes about the business of utterly ignoring it for 35 story-laden, humour-infested, believer-depressing and sinner-condemning minutes. You had one job!
And even where this wilfulness is not the issue, Word ministry can be lamentably vitiated. The preacher comes to the pulpit with textbook exegetical rigour, with every theological duck in a row, and leaves the congregation slightly better informed intellectually, and none the wiser spiritually. Or the preacher greases the rails of inadequate preparation with histrionics or with misdirected nervous energy, so that the sermon is heavy on pathos but light on biblical content. You had one job!
We must keep this ‘one job’ ever before our eyes. The charge of teaching the Scriptures, of preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ is no light or ephemeral thing. Shall we stand before those whom Christ has redeemed with his own blood and imagine for a moment that their greatest need is to see us, or enjoy our stories, or taste our exegetically untethered novelties? Shall we count our ‘one job’ of such low esteem as this? Shall we stand before unregenerate men and women who will one day face Christ Jesus and rather than warn them to flee from the wrath to come, advise them on how to cosmetically improve the fragments of their short earthly lives? Shall we stand before Christ in that final day and wither beneath his auditing eye that we had one job and we forfeited it for mere intellectual gratification, or the combined adulation of our amused and adoring hearers?
So let me climb the pulpit steps each Lord’s Day with ‘You have one job’ sewn into the lining of all of my words and thoughts. My task is single but not simple, the span of a sermon is short but its scale is not, these Words from the mouth of the living God are not my currency to invest as I please, but a stewardship for which I shall give the strictest account. May we as preachers dissent from the imaginative wasteland of preaching our own paltry ideas; and may God’s people under our care disdain all (including us) who dare to face this fearful task of speaking God’s Word and instead dishonour Him by departing from it.
You have one job – do it, do it well, and do it only.