Sunday served as a great reminder of how much a preacher needs God and how easy it is to forget that. Please note before continuing reading that I am not in need of encouragement nor am I feeling uber discouraged after my sermon Sunday. I am actually very excited at what seems to have been a great learning opportunity.
Right after I finished my sermon Sunday I knew something didn’t feel right. “It was rushed”, I thought. Even my ultra-honest but so far very impressed with my preaching wife said, “You seemed off…were you nervous…I didn’t follow it well.” My Con-Ed supervisor and Associate Pastor even asked me when the last time I preached was. “A few months ago in my home church,” I responded. “Well it was a bit academic,” he said. Now don’t get me wrong. He said it was good. I hit he text hard and didn’t go for the easy answer in Job. I left it open-ended as any good Job sermon should be. But it was lacking a personal touch. It was lacking that personal invitation to the listener to join me in the text. Instead, I kept the distance there and did the best I could tell them what it was like in the text-rather than inviting them there with me.
Over the last few days I have come to the conclusion that I really envy student pastors in this area. Sure, they do have to work harder than those of us not serving a church. But they never have to make that awkward transition from seminary to the “real world.” And most in seminary would probably argue that seminary is very far from the “real world” or even the “real church.” But student pastors continually keep one foot in the church and one foot in seminary. They never really run the risk of losing their zest for relevance in the church. They don’t normally become cynics of the church as many in seminary do. And most of all, they don’t normally fall prey to the trap of never inviting their listeners to where they are.
I am convinced this is a gift all preachers must master. This doesn’t mean we water down the gospel to “meet people where they are.” But it does mean we don’t get too haughty in our assumption that an M.Div automatically makes us the smartest person in the room. After all, “the last shall be first and the first will be last.” And “all of us are to be like a little child.” It is this lesson I am thankful to have had taught to me after this past weekend.