Having graduated from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary early this month, this is the next of my seminary reflections. This marks the third post. They are out of order, except for the last few.
Preaching is as scary as I always thought [but it can also be powerful!].
One of the more intimidating aspects of the pastoral vocation is this: speaking in front of a lot of people. Those people may be judging you, or they may offer great charity. Those people may come interested, or they may come with impatience and plenty of other things to think about at that time. Those people long for a sense of the eternal, of deep purpose for life, of grace and truth; but they may not have gotten enough sleep the night before.
And there they are at church.
Now, let’s add to that.
I’m not someone who was naturally drawn to speaking in front of people. My college speech class illustrates this perfectly. The goal to was to eradicate ums and uhhs from our speeches, and also to memorize our main points. I couldn’t remember the next point, and I knew I couldn’t say uh or um, so I just stopped. It was probably about 8 or 10 seconds. Yeah.
If you listen to me preach nowadays, don’t be deceived. You may initially think I’m calm and poised, but don’t let that fool you! I am not! Well, at least beforehand. As I move into a message, somehow God’s Spirit seems to slowly calm my nerves, and I allow him to animate me. Somehow, my hands even seem to work with my words as I tread holy ground. Somehow, the people out there who always used to intimidate me have turned into people who simply long for an experience of God.
Just like God used Moses, a guy who stammered and lacked confidence and poise, God can use a guy like me. God can use a guy who wasn’t always a natural with words and with communication. God can use a guy who hated public speaking for the first two decades of his life. For me, this has been evidence of my calling that I have been given grace to do the communication that pastoring requires. That’s not to say I’m killin’ it. But I’m taking steps. The meme below says it all.
God calls various people in various places to proclaim the hope contained in Scripture and made most evident in the Son, Jesus Christ. This is a serious, scary task. That can [and does] make us young pastors terrified!
But the incredible thing about preaching is this: it sticks. I still remember concepts and illustrations from the sermons my pastor preached growing up. I remember the story about bitterness that featured Eskimo hunters who dipped an icy blade into blood, then planted it in the snow. When a wolf would smell the blood and lick the blade, they became so intoxicated that they failed to realize their numb tongue was being cut open. That’s harsh, but it’s what we do to ourselves when we fail to forgive and harbor bitterness against others. Preaching sticks.
That stuff matters. It’s terrifying, and it matters. A lot.