I've preached most Sundays since April of 1981. You'd assume by now that I could simply focus on nothing but the Word when I'm preaching, but I still think about other things at the same time.
Here are some of those things that I—and, I suspect, many other pastors—think about:
- I need to pray more and live a godlier life. No matter how well my spiritual walk is going, standing before God's people to proclaim His Word always magnifies my weaknesses. It's humbling.
- Am I really connecting? Even one distracted expression or one quizzical look will make me wonder. It's funny how I'll see that one person out of hundreds in attendance.
- How much pain is sitting in these pews? I know some of the stories, but I'm sure many people are silently carrying heart-gripping burdens.
- Who's living in secret sin? Somebody is, I suspect, in most congregations. I've been around long enough to know that person might even be one of our leaders.
- Are they surfing the net rather than reading the Word on their phone? I struggle with listening to preaching sometimes, so I assume others do, too.
- Why is that person sleeping? I hope the fatigue isn't related to my content and delivery, but I can't help but wonder.
- Will (name) finally turn to Jesus today? Most of us know somebody who hears us every Sunday, but who hasn't yet turned from sin and believed.
- I don't see (name). I'm surprised how often I suddenly realize in the middle of a sermon that somebody's not in his or her "regular" seat. We take mental attendance as we preach.
- We need to fix that by next week. Whatever "that" is (such as a sound problem, a PowerPoint issue, a blank spot in the service), it's not easy to just let it go if it disrupts the service.
- How much time do I have left to finish the sermon? We don't want to be tied to the clock, but sometimes our service schedule demands it.
- This microphone's driving me crazy! Sometimes it's feedback ... or fuzziness ... or unexpected popping noises ... or sometimes it just feels loose. It's distracting.
- I'm not sure that point (or that illustration) worked. What seems so perfect during sermon preparation doesn't always come out well when the game's on. To be honest, listeners don't usually need to tell us when the sermon's not working.
- Why'd that person leave the service? The reasons could be numerous, but I find it hard not to wonder when someone leaves in the middle of the service.
- I'm hungry. It happens to us, too.
- I can't believe I get to do this work! I pray all of us will think this way as we preach this weekend. It really is an unbelievable privilege.
Preachers, what would you add to this list?
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the original article, visit chucklawless.com.
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