Four or five years ago I was unhappy with my own preaching. I knew something was missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was a highly frustrating time for me. This past Saturday, one of our church leaders told me that a friend visited the church during that time. “Your pastor doesn’t talk about Jesus a lot in his sermons,” the friend observed. The church leader who told me this argued at first, but then listened for a few sermons and concluded that the visitor was right. Something was missing. Someone, actually. Jesus. I’m horrified but not surprised. I’m glad this phase is behind me now (confirmed by my church leader friend who says that Jesus is showing up everywhere these days). I’m sure that I brought up Jesus even back then, but not as the beginning, middle, and end of all things. It’s hard now to picture any other way. I’ve had to repent of a lot of things, but this has got to be the biggest. And I don’t know that I’m alone in my mistake. I was preaching the Bible, probably spending a lot of time on the ethical passages, but failing to tie them to the Gospel. It’s scary because it’s even possible to major in the Bible and still miss the heart of the Bible, and not even know it. There’s a lot of attention paid these days to practical issues. I’ve just had to catalog my library for the insurance company (don’t ask) and I’ve been amazed at all the practical books. The assumption seems to be that if we do the right things, individually and as churches, we’ll be effective. A lot of the stuff resembles the self-help literature that we’ve all found pretty useless. A lot of us have also found the programmatic and pragmatic Christian living and church books pretty useless. Pragmatic books have their place, I guess, but they often don’t get to the heart of the issue. There are newer books on more up-to-date techniques, but these too miss the mark. I’m becoming more convinced that the real issue isn’t that we don’t have great techniques, or that we don’t understand post-modernism, important as these issues may be. The real issue is that in many of our lives and ministries, it’s easy to miss Jesus and the Gospel. Thank God the Gospel is more than self-help. I truly and humbly repent. I don’t want to miss Jesus.