Recently I preached a sermon that was a home run. I don’t usually think that way about my sermons as I often teeter between self-loathing and suicidal thoughts in the time after I finish a message. This one was different; it was touching, and everyone agreed it was well delivered. Since I have spoken, there have been dozens of people make comments to me personally and online about how much they enjoyed it, and I must be honest; it scares me to death.
I know as a public speaker the goal is for people to listen and learn from your message while they enjoy your delivery. Being a preacher is a little different. In fact, it is more comfortable for me to deliver a sermon I think is lousy because I know I need God to show up and do something with it. When it goes well, there are other thoughts in my head.
- I want God to get the glory not me. I am glad people liked my preaching, but if they only see me, then I messed up. I want them to hear about God and his will above my own. I often feel that a great sermon leaves people wanting more of God and not the preacher.
- Forgetting the Holy Spirit. As a believer, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit of God is what makes preaching work. God takes my words and infuses them with his Spirit so that they touch the heart, mind, and soul of the listener.
- It was only part of the overall experience. On this particular occasion, several other things happened before I got up to speak. Some songs put people into a mood, and a type of thinking was introduced. There was another speaker who laid the groundwork and the context of what I was going to say. There were also people who prayed before, during and after the event. I got to be the cherry on top of the bowl, the ice cream and the hot fudge.
- Fear of remembering me and not the message. I am glad people liked what I had to say, but I hope a year from now they remember the passage of the Bible I presented and the essential content of what I had to say.
- The temptation of my foolish pride. This one is the toughest for me. It feels good when people say nice things about you. Quickly my head begins to swell as people repeatedly praise my work. It is easy to think, “That is right; I am a special person.” Unfortunately, I made a couple of comments I regret in the time since the sermon that showed my prize oozing out. I am only as good as God allows me to be in every situation.
All of this may sound crazy to you, but as a preacher, this has been my struggle recently. I wish it were not true. I really would love to tell you that I am so spiritual that none of this influences me. I am thankful for everyone’s encouragement, and I am trying to learn how to handle it but know it does not come easily.