I think I finally found the perfect analogy for being a preacher. Here it is in the form of a story.
His question echoed through the room as everyone stopped to listen to the answer intently. It was not the first time I had heard someone ask it and I am sure I had posed the question myself a time or two.
Let me give you the context of his question. I was asked to teach a semester-long class on the topic of evangelism at the local Bible Institute. That year I had two hours every week for three months to explain the Biblical teaching and practical applications of sharing our faith with other people. There was a large amount of material to cover, and I tried to move as fast as I could each week. While I was only teaching once a week, the students were taking multiple classes throughout the same time frame. Their semester was winding down, and their schedules were overloaded.
I paused my presentation of my prepared material to give them some bonus information from my years of pastoring. It was good advice mixed with Biblical logic, but it did not fit into the rest of the teaching. At that moment a student stopped me and asked, “Will this be on the test?”
Every teacher knows how this moment can go. If I say yes, they will dig in, take notes and listen carefully. They understand that this information is vital toward their passing of the class and possibly graduation.
If I say no, then they will put down their pens and slowly tune me out. I was forced to reply with honesty, “None of this will be on the test.” Then I took the next minute to explain that just because it will not be on the test does not mean that it is not important information. I assured them that they would one day wish they had listened closely to my teaching.
I watched as a couple of the more committed students continued taking notes. Several of them put their pens down and listened less than intently. Others leaned back and relaxed as if I was no longer talking.
Being a preacher is like a teacher who has said none of this will be on the test at the end of the week or semester. Yes, one day you will wish you had listened closer. There will be a time in which you will want to have this knowledge, but most likely that will not be today.
With that in mind every week I stand up to preach, and I look out at some people who listen closely and take notes, others who listen but not intently and finally some people just lean back and relax (and sometimes take a nap).
Each week I pray, study, prepared and present the word of God. It is a job a take very seriously, but most of the time people are just looking for the stuff they will need to get by right now. It is hard to get people to take the long view of life when the immediate is what seems the most important. I know it might not look like it today, but your spiritual life is essential.