Hostility to the Gospel comes in two forms. Here’s how to handle both.

When you preach to an unconverted congregation, you’re likely to get one of two responses: anger or incomprehension. This is because while the Word of God is inherently attractive — the creature is never so far gone that his Creator loses contact with him — the sinner will resist the message.

What’s good news for the sinner (redemption) is, after all, bad news for sin (the end of its reign).

Soloveitchik wrote, “to build a yeshivah in inhospitable territory is a form of Let there be light.” The same goes for the parish. Its ministries of preaching and teaching are acts of the new creation, of refashioning souls.

The hostility to gospel preaching and witness means two things. First, it is good evidence that the preacher is actually preaching the gospel (and not his own words). Second, it means that he is preaching to the right people.

Of the two reactions, anger and incomprehension, anger is better. It means the message has both been received and understood. You’ve cornered the sin and succeeded in making the sinner uncomfortable. But it’s also the more dangerous, as we tend to respond to anger with anger.

With incomprehension you will agonize over making your message clearer, more accessible. But it is easy to get into trouble here too because the Word of God is already clear.

And with the stubborn, trust that Providence has decreed this time and place for you to give your message and for this person to hear it.

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