Leave it to my (almost) 93 year old grandfather to ask a question which offered both clarity and no small amount of discomfort:
"Can you point to one sermon you have preached that has most furthered the Kingdom of God?"
That question gave me pause because I didn't have an answer.
My grandfather had no such trouble. In fact, he remembered the situation starkly and how he handled it. What he did stands in stark contrast to what I was taught and trained to do, but I know I cannot say I've had the success he had.
Many, many years ago, my grandfather was asked to perform a funeral for an atheist--a non-believer who made no bones about his unbelief. For some reason, they asked a clergy to perform the ceremony.
My grandfather had to make a decision about how to handle this particular situation, and he chose to act boldly. He chose as his funeral text John 3: 16. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that who so ever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
My grandfather began his sermon, "I am sorry your loved one did not believe that promise."
My grandfather would probably be tarred and feathered for such a thing today. As I mentioned earlier, I was taught and told in no uncertain terms that funerals are not appropriate places for evangelism. It angers folks. It does not offer comfort to the families. Etc. Etc.
The sermon my grandfather delivered offered no great comfort to the guy's family at first, but over the next year or so, the majority of the deceased man's family ended up in church. They went from unbelief to belief because the Spirit used my grandfather's sermon to hit home. That one sermon furthered the Kingdom of God and brought numerous people to faith.
Now, I could cop out of that question by saying that many of my sermons were good and encouraged people to bring about God's Kingdom by their actions in their daily lives. I could cop out and say that many of my sermons have encouraged people to make the world a better place by feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, etc. etc. But can I point to one single sermon--or combination of sermons that I have preached which the Spirit has used to bring unbelievers to believe? Can I point to any situation where those who were either sitting on the fence regarding belief or who were even hostile to belief had their hearts warmed and broken by words placed into my mouth?
I'm drawing a blank. That's very, very discomforting.
For the primary purpose of the Church is to make disciples of all nations and witness to the resurrection so that all may come to believe. That's the clarity.
Am I furthering the Kingdom of God where I am and preaching how I am preaching? That's discomforting.
Do I need to re-emphasize reaching out to those who do not believe in Jesus Christ? That's the clarity.
Do I have the courage to continue wrestling with my grandfather's question? To follow where it may lead me?
Do I have a choice?