So recently I preached, I think one of my worst sermons’s ever. Now, I’m not looking for sympathy — I am guessing there will be plenty more bad sermons to come. I apologise for those who have to bear with it. Yet that’s why I love preaching. There is never a moment of… “aaaah yes, I’ve made it: I’ve reached the Holy Mountain of preaching; I’ve now joined the likes of Moses, Apostle Paul, Spurgeon, Keller, Chandler etc.” If I ever feel like that, I ought to just resign and step down from the pulpit. It’s most likely I have gotten a bit too big in the head for the pulpit and to serve God.
Preaching is one of those amazing gifts from God where there is always room to grow and improve. If it’s a spiritual gift God has given preachers, then we ought to trust that he will keep refining it for his Glory. It’s a good thing.
All About Me
Anyway, as I was unpacking and reflecting on the sermon I had just bombed, I was asking myself why it bothered me so much. I mean, it ruined my mood for the rest of the day, and I found myself yearning for someone to come and say “good job,” as I walked around and talked to people. I mean, God was gracious; one person did come and share how they were thankful for my message and how it helped them. But it was ridiculous: I even found myself saying—when someone thanked me for the sermon—“what was good about it?” Yikes! Suddenly I’d made the sermon all about me. I was desperate to be justified by my performance.
I wonder if that’s how it is for other pastors and preachers of God’s word? We believe in grace alone through faith alone, but we fall into the trap of justification by work alone. We never feel so awesome as we do when we feel like we’ve hit the ball out of the park and have that sense God has moved. Then we feel great—like we’ve done the work and it’s moved people. My existence as a preacher and pastor is justified!
Oh, how desperately we, as preachers and pastors, need the Saviour’s sweet reminder of what matters most.
All About Jesus
As I was wrestling with this reality that God was revealing to me, these sweet words came to my heart: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:)
Jesus is talking to his disciples after a very successful short-term mission trip. They’d hit the ball right out of the park: if they were writing a blog or ministry update, it would be awesome. But Jesus, as usual, gets to the heart of things: rejoice in that your names are written in heaven. Don’t rejoice in your work, but rejoice what you’ve been given—and we know, at this side of the cross and empty tomb, that this is the reality for all who put their faith and trust in Jesus. It was a wonderful reminder to my soul of the Grace of Christ: the Gospel for a Preacher.
And, the reality is, I need to reminded of this often. Actually, all the time…
If you want to know how to best pray for your teachers and pastors, pray they will continue to find their rest in Jesus, and not their work. This will grow them to be a better preachers and it will serve you well too.
- Here are some questions that I am asking myself at the moment to exegete my heart:
- Who defines you? Your sermon, your calling, your ministry?
- Who should define you?
- Why do I find it hard to take constructive feedback? Is it pride? Am I making it personal?
- Why am I letting the one bad criticism get to my heart? What do I need to be reminded of? What matters to Jesus?
- Do I argue back when some gives feedback on my sermon? Rather than listening, even if I disagree
- Am I listening to everybody’s sermon to grow and learn or looking for the faults or thinking “If I did that sermon I would…” In other words I would do it better.
- Who am I preaching to? To those who I desire approval from? To those I want to annoy or shock?
- Who should I relying on and preaching to instead? Only an Audience of One.
- Remember Luke 10:20.
Photo: Alejandro Arango, flickr