There are things that need to be said simply because they are true and beneficial. “Do as I say, not as I do” can still work for certain things in life. An alcoholic father can say to his son, “Don’t get drunk” because the message is still beneficial. Jesus also said, despite the hypocrisy of Pharisees, “Do what they say but don’t do what they do”. (Mat 23:3) Pastors can still speak on issues they struggle with themselves, simply because they are true according to the Bible.
But as we all know, what inspires people into action is “Do as I do”. There is nothing more convincing than “modelling” when it comes to lifestyle, value and character. It is because we instinctively connect a “message” with the “messenger” before we decide to act on it. We often find it impossible to separate the two. For example, a doctor can urge his patient to exercise but if he is obese, his message feels untrue, though it isn’t. Things being true is not enough many times when it comes to words. It is as if words we say must be “embodied” before others feel compelled to act on it.
In fact, this reality is demonstrated by Jesus, the Word of God incarnate, embodying it in human flesh. (John 1:14) Even though God could’ve kept speaking from above, he had to embody his words to us, so we can fully embrace them.
Of course, because we are imperfect human beings, we cannot perfectly live out what we say, the way Jesus did. But as we strive to live out what we say, we begin to have a genuine influence over people around us. This is why I try my best to preach what I practice in my life, instead of just crafting a good-sounding sermon. There are times I have to rely on someone else’s stories here and there, but I want my preaching to be an accurate representation of my real life. Having my wife present during the sermon keeps me in check because she is the best judge when it comes to the authenticity of my message. (Soon I will have my kids in the judge seats as well!) It is much difficult to fool people in your home than those outside.
This is why having community like house church where we are known by how we actually “live” is deeply important for our faith. They keep the gap between what we say and how we live close, helping us to stay authentic in our faith.