Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Yesterday, I read an article that really resonated with me: I Got the Preachin' Blues. In the article, Chris Jackson speaks of the Monday morning (or Sunday afternoon) discouragement that often follows preaching. Although for me, it often starts long before Sunday morning as I look at a manuscript that seems dead and lifeless. A friend of mine calls this a "ka ka" moment--the point in which you hate your sermon. This is generally followed by many prayers that God will somehow turn my watery sermon into wine. And much to my surprise, God does seem to work through my preaching and I am sure it is despite me!
Granted I don't feel this way about every sermon and there are those weeks when I know I've hit it out of the building (and goodness knows that is always my prayer that the words of the sermon will have an effect outside the walls of the church!). But for the most part, I really don't know the impact of the sermon. After all, a sermon isn't necessarily good simply because you are told "good sermon, pastor" as folks walk out the door. It may simply have been entertaining! Or they may just say it to be polite. And I generally feel that I really have struck out when someone says to me, "That was a great sermon. There are some folks who needed to hear that message!"
One of the advantages of preaching every week is that you can't focus on the Monday preaching blues for very long--because next Sunday is coming. Furthermore, the feeling that each and every sermon must be a home run is lessened by having the opportunity to hit the ball again (and soon). As an associate, I was always felt extreme pressure about preaching for a couple of reasons. First, since I only preached every few weeks, I couldn't build on previous sermons (after all who remembered them?!). Second, you couldn't build the relationship with the congregation that allows for occasional less than stellar performances. Third, there was always this sense that you had to earn the right to preach.
Nonetheless, I still feel the pressure. After all, folks are giving you something precious--their time and hopefully their attention. And some folks actually come to hear a word from the Lord by way of preaching! In fact, according to "Listening to the Listeners" most worshippers expect a challenging sermon! And it is only right that preachers do their best to be faithful to their call!
So perhaps it is right that we question and critique our sermons. (After all we do it to other's sermons!) And maybe Saturday night doubt and Monday morning blues are a way of keeping us humble and encouraging us not only to continue to hone our skills but, more importantly, to return again and again to God for assistance.
Every week before each of our services, someone prays for me. And they generally pray that I will die to self so God can speak through me. I think that is an excellent prayer! So perhaps the Monday morning blues are also a way of reminding us preachers of just who is in charge anyway!