Professionally and occupationally, preaching is the biggest part of our job description. It’s the one thing where everyone gets to see what we do. Sometimes, people think it’s the only thing we do. We’ve all been asked this question in one form or another: “Soooo… what do you do rest of the week?”
For that reason alone, I get annoyed when pastors don’t put effort into their sermon. A sermon requires more planning and deserves more thought than putting it together 3 hours before services starts on Sunday morning.
Not that this should ever be our motivation, but because it’s the one thing people expect us to do week in and week out, I would hope to do my best in preaching on Sunday morning. That’s a slippery slope – to think about meeting people’s expectation – but, it’s also a reminder that the people (and God) deserve more than the preacher winging it on Sunday mornings.
And it’s obvious when we haven’t put thought and effort into our sermon.
It’s obvious when you show up at a corporate meeting and know that the person leading the meeting didn’t prepare adequately.
It’s obvious when your teacher shows up and didn’t prepare for the day’s lesson.
We walk away from these scenarios thinking, “man, what a waste of time.”
And I know that when we don’t put effort into our sermons, people will walk away thinking, “Man, what a waste of time.”
Or worse, if we do it enough, we will have conditioned people to check out during the time we stand in front of the pulpit, if they continue to come.
I’m not saying that we need to hit homeruns with every sermon. As bad as this may sound, it’s rather hard to hit a homerun every time you step up to the plate (pulpit) on Sunday morning. There are hundred of factors that can “hinder” the sermon, despite all the prayer and effort and study we have put into it.
-the vibe of the congregation is just weird on Sunday morning.
-the week was too damn long and your mind is still trying to catch up.
-you woke up sick.
-the opening story didn’t connect the way you wanted it to.
-someone dropped a bombshell of a news right before service starts. (why do people do that…?)
-nerves hit you.
-you just realized that your zipper is down.
-your joke, which you thought was hilarious, barely got a chuckle.
Sometimes, the church wasn’t ready to hear that message or you weren’t ready to preach that kind of message.
And sometimes, despite all that we put in, for us, we simply walk away feeling, “Man… I could’ve done so much better…” without any outside factors going wrong.
But, for me, it’s different when I walk away hearing a sermon and thinking, “man, that had some potential. I wonder what happened” versus, “what the hell was that?” It becomes blatantly obvious, at least for me, when the preacher is struggling because s/he did not put thought, effort, prayer, study, time into the sermon.
And we’re given such an opportunity with preaching. We can be prophets. We can be poets. We can be both. We’re story tellers. We can weave God’s narrative with the heartbeat of the church. We can be dialogue starters. Question askers. We can gracefully point out how we may be missing the point and offer ways to make things right. We’re truth tellers. We can hold up mirrors in front of our listeners to show them how everything about them is so perfect and God-intended and to lovingly show them how God desire more from us and what we may need to change…
The sermon is a powerful, powerful form of communication. It’s more than a job description. And it deserves time, effort, study and prayer before it gets crafted and while it gets written and prepared for delivery.
So, it’s a huge pet peeve of mine when some preachers choose to treat it lightly and make me feel like the sermon was an afterthought of the entire worship service.
But outside professionally and occupationally, the sermon turns out to be a small part of our calling, as disciples of Christ.
This is something I wrestle with all the time:
What point is it to preach about a certain aspect of Christian life, but yet not willing to do what I preach?
Because if we continue to not practice what we preach, how can we start expecting others to follow through on our preaching? And what’s worse is that we often get upset at people for being dense and not doing what we said from the pulpit.
We can’t take the responsibility of preaching lightly, but we can’t think that our preaching is big (and good) enough to be our only contribution to the Kingdom of God.
Our calling as a pastor goes beyond just preaching. Our calling involves living out the messages that God has placed in our hearts. (Thank God that we don’t have to do some crazy stuff Ezekiel had to do to “illustrate” God’s message…)
The words that we preach needs to be followed by actions, not just from the listeners, but (more importantly) from ourselves.
I’ve heard many preachers say that they’re really preaching to themselves the sermon speaks to them most. I’ve said that statement and also believe it too.
So, since that’s the case, we should be the first in line to live out the very things we preach.
I love the quote (and love to quote) St. Francis of Assisi’s “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.” But, it’s time that I stop reciting that quote, and start living that quote.
So here’s to us preachers being living, walking and talking sermons.