By Kevin Thompson
I am writing this post shortly after having preached a chapel message. Let me tell you, I am exhausted. But this is not a mere physical exhaustion. Truthfully, preaching does not tire me physically. While I am on my feet for some time, and occasionally get animated as I preach, it is not very taxing on my physical frame.
The exhaustion I face I experience is more emotional, mental and spiritual. Preaching is not like giving a presentation or speech. While those can be difficult, preaching takes that one step further. Preaching is not an academic presentation that seeks to explain a portion of an ancient text. Preaching is not a down-home chat about difficult subjects. Preaching is an investment of my whole self into the lives and fate of people I love. Preaching has eternal consequences the weight of which constantly rests upon my shoulders.
As preachers begin to prepare, the commentaries and other books begin to pile up and the academic study portion of the message begins to take shape. Outlines are made, sentences are diagrammed and textual observations are scribbled down on various scraps of paper. While that can be taxing, any high school student working on a school project can learn to handle this portion of preaching. The difficulty comes as surely but slowly the message of the text leaps off the mage and begins to strike the heart. You begin to be convicted as the Holy Spirit begins to point out area of your life that need to change. Your sin is exposed and you suddenly come face-to-face with God wrapped in your failings and insecurities. As you wrestle through the text and your personal life, the grace and mercy of God break through. You are now humbled by your sin but feel the warm embrace of God’s forgiveness. It’s been a roller coaster of emotion. But now, as you pen the rest of this message, it becomes much more than a dry theological treatise. You realize others need what God has just taught you. You see the importance of the Word for God’s people. Perhaps specific names come to mind of people you know need to see this in their lives. Your people need Jesus and the come to you in order to hear from Him. That’s pressure.
By the time you finally come to the pulpit, you come with a weight upon your shoulders. You love the people to whom you about to deliver this message. You know the Word of God has the power to change lives, transform families and literally raise the dead to life. You want them to hear this. They need to hear this. Souls hang in the balance. And while you have invested your life into this message, you don’t want to get in the way of the message. You don’t want your delivery to be a distraction. Even more, the book I am opening is the Holy Word of God. this isn’t a book report on Shakespeare. I am handling something spoken by God Himself. How dare I treat this without fear and trembling. That’s even more pressure.
After the sermon has been delivered, I know for me, I experience a few minutes of doubt. Did I get the message across? Did I say what really needed to be said? Did I stress that point enough? Was that opening illustration too long or too distracting? Was that joke really appropriate? Did I spend enough time developing point two? And it goes on and on and on…
Eventually I finally come to the point where I leave it in God’s hands. At that point, a burden has been lifted. The Lord will use His Word, I am confident of that. The Lord will do His work despite of my shortcomings. The power is in the message not the messenger. I can now sit back and realize the job is done and I left it all on the field. Humility is not just a needed character trait, but can be a source of great relief as well. The Lord did everything He set out to accomplish today. It’s not about me.
Kevin Thompson is the host of the Basic Bible Podcast and the high school Bible teacher at Rock County Christian School in Beloit, WI. Previous to this Kevin has served as an assistant pastor, youth pastor and elder at several different churches in the Midwest and New England.