Preaching weeks are always tough for me because the time is not built in to my normal schedule - so it tends to be over and above. But I really love it. The fact that we're launching ServErie to the church in about 10 days doesn't help the schedule either. But in the midst of it all - I've been reflecting on some of the ups and downs of preaching - here is my initial list.
Things I really enjoy
- The deep study of God's word in preparation
- Crafting creative ways to help present the truth in ways that will be interesting to the people listening
- Praying through the cleansing process and getting myself ready to be the messenger
- Imagining names and faces of a wide variety of people who attend Grace and trying to consider what they need to hear about the topic at hand
- It forces me to write what God is teaching me
- Wrestling to bring meaningful 21st century application from the ancient scriptures
- Reading and listening to other great preachers to get ideas on how they have dealt with the text at hand
- Getting away from the office to Panera to read, study, and write - usually on Thursday/Friday.
- Looking out from the stage at faces when people are really getting it.
- Sensing the Spirit of God using a broken vessle like me to get the word out.
- Saying things in a way that sheds new light on a subject, or brings a new angle, or is so honest that people leave saying "I can't believe he said that..."
- Challenging religious people that it's not about religion
- Using planned and spontaneous humor to break down barriers in the congregation.
- Teasing Kim from the front - she's always so cute and funny about it.
- Utilizing other creative elements to bring home the point. Our teams are so amazing.
Things I Struggle With
- Editing the sermon after it's fully written. One of my profs compared it to dismembering your own child. (This past week's first draft was 13 pages - I had to get it down to 6 [and actually only achieved 6 1/2 - I was a little long, right Brian?])
- The preparation process. I'm not a great orator - and so it takes me a lot of time and effort to get to the final product.
- The post-sermon adrenaline drain. Sunday afternoons are brutal after a weekend of preaching - I usually either get a migraine or shuffle around like a vegetable the whole day.
- Going from manuscript to speaking notes. It's always my last step - I'm usually exhausted by then - and It's a bit of a guessing game as to which sections I'm going to remember and which I'm going to need some reminders and which ones I want to flat out read so I can be sure to say it exactly right.
- The authority that's been entrusted to me by God and the church. That they have entrusted me with bringing the word of God to bear - do they know me? I know me and I'm not sure I would let...
- The empty pit in my stomach during dry spells of creativity and inspiration. There's always at least one moment of "I don't think this is going to come together."
- Trying to draw out points that are applicable to both long-term christians and those who aren't yet convinced of Christianity. There is always representation of the full continuum at any of our services.
- Feeling like the week is being consumed by stuff other than sermon preparation.
- The attacks that come during the preparation process - constant thoughts of "you're not spiritual enough to say that, people will be offended by that, you probably shouldn't go there because you're not a good enough example...etc."
- When people sleep... it's a big downer. And we can see it - seriously - you think you're hiding it but you're not - we can totally see you and know exactly what you're doing...