Monday, November 30, 2020

Ministry Remnants: Laying Eggs, aka, Preaching Poor Sermons

There once was a preacher, so the story goes, who, upon retirement learned his wife had a stash of $2,000 dollars laid aside in an egg carton, along with several eggs. 

"Where did this come from?" he asked, amazed. 

"Well, honey, every time you preached a sermon that was, as the expression goes, 'laying an egg', I put an egg in the carton." Seeing only 5 eggs the preacher was relieved. "But what of the two thousand dollars?" 

"Well," his wife replied, "Every time I had a dozen eggs I sold them and kept the cash." 

Every preacher knows the pain of having preached poorly. The reasons are many, for preachers are human to be sure. One seasoned preacher once told me, "If the congregation knows you love them it doesn't matter what you say in your sermon." I think this must surely be right and there seems to be a corollary truth: "The better you love your congregation, the more your preaching will have effect." 

Be that as it may, every preacher wants to do well, likely worries too much about it, and feels deeply pained when the message falls flat. So what to do? It is tempting to leave off, for no one needs platitudes and weary analysis. But daring to believe this could be helpful, if only to me, I will offer a few brief solutions to poor preaching.
  • First things first: if you have not prayed, forget it. Pray for your people, pray regularly and at length, pray for wisdom and insight, effectiveness, anointing, unction, humility, brevity. Read Bounds for motivation. It will work if you are breathing. But pray. 
  • Spend time with your people. Nothing helps you relate better to others than really knowing them. Nothing. This is a central natural means we must use to help our preaching. You need to know their perspectives, the things on their mind, their worries, ideas, concepts of God and the spiritual life. This will humble you, and will shut your mouth on half the pontificating to which you may be prone. There is no substitute for personal time with the folks who listen to you on Sunday morning.
  • Study. Of course. Widely, regularly, grounded in Scripture. Listening to other preachers must be part of this. Learn through trial and error what study methods work best, how best to shape the message and delivery. And there is no substitute for going over the sermon multiple times while standing in the pulpit. Or at least do it once before you preach it for the congregation.
  • Stay with the task -- few preachers get really good without years of practice. It is easy to want to give up for any number of reason. The struggle is real. But few things are more important than perseverance. God will help you. Quitting short-circuits that process, painful as it is.
I could go on with ideas perhaps, but that is enough. Discipline is required, as in any task. A preacher must submit to the disciplines of the calling if he would avoid laying the woeful egg. 

That's all for now. I want to be better, and this encourages me. I hope it may help you, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Briefly, on Faith

Faith isn't faith unless confidence in the object is maintained at all costs. I believe in a real, living God who is the only possible reason for good in the world. I believe He is personal, actual, morally perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing. I recognize the cognitive merit of objections; I recognize the cognitive merit of substantiations. I realize there are many ways in which I will die because of this belief for it requires more of me than I wish to give. And I am no hero, certainly no masochist. I just find that though faltering, painful, and tentative I still believe and can do no other. If that is untenable for the unbeliever, so be it. Unbelief is its own faith with equal vulnerability to the truth question. I believe there is Good. If there is a God who makes such a thing real, He will have mercy. If there is not, we will wish He were.