Behind the Pulpit

Last night I had the opportunity to lead my church in a devotion for our evening service.  (A devotion is like a mini-sermon and mine was about 14 minutes.)  It’s been several years since I’ve preached at all.  I’ve taught classes and done a few presentations, but no sermon-like activities.  I was very honored when my pastor called me to ask if I would be willing to give a devotion.  My date ended up being April 5th, Palm Sunday.  As excited as I was to do this as the time drew near I wasn’t so sure.  I will share some thoughts on:  being very nervous, giving the devotion, the aftermath and gaining a whole new level of respect for those who preach.

Nervousness: Blogging Is Not Preaching

As the time got closer for me to give the devotion I started getting nervous.  I have a tendency to over think things as it is.  For example, when I teach Sunday School I always seem to over prepare.  I’m working on it though.  So anyways, I was nervous and wasn’t sure I’d even be ready.  I prayed and still doubted myself.  It’s weird because this is a subject I am passionate about.  I love Jesus, the Bible, theology, etc.  I have long in depth phone conversations about such subjects and I even blog about them!

It’s just not the same.  As you stand directly in front of a congregation you get instant visual and possibly even verbal feedback.  You don’t know how like minded the people are so it’s not like a conversation amongst theology geeks.  It’s definitely not like a blog.  You can ignore a blog, turn comments off or just stop.  The thing is that I was following my pastor’s morning sermon on Luke 24 on the resurrection.  I wanted to sort of follow-up on his coattails.  I kept changing the focus of the devotion.  Thinking and re-thinking and praying some more.  See: my wife went through this with me and she was getting onto me about trusting the Lord in this.  I was really being ridiculous.  My buddy Nathan and I spoke quite a bit about the devotion.  He and my wife were great support.  So, with the Lord’s help, I pressed on.

Giving the Devotion

I only read through the devotion twice before giving it.  Once at home as we were getting ready to leave and once on the drive to the church building. This is because I was putting on some finishing touches.  You know, like finishing the devotion itself!  It’s funny actually, in the drive over I actually did better than when I was at home.  My pastor and I prayed before our service started which was about 45 minutes before I was up.  Of course, I prayed once more before hand.

I started out just a little bit nervous which was a lot less than I had anticipated.  I really calmed down after about the first minute.  I was looking at all the people in my church family that I loved and the loved me.  I realized this and I just talked.  I shared the passion that God has given me for Himself.  They weren’t really there to hear me.  I wasn’t there to give me.  They were there to hear God’s word and I was there to give it as He would allow me to.  As I went on more of my passion shown through and people were really engaged.  When I really knew that I was okay is when I say my wife’s beaming face.  She was very proud of me and thankful in the Lord.

The Aftermath

I closed with a short prayer.  It was over!  I was rejoicing and not just because I was finished.  I really enjoyed the experience.  As I said, I knew my wife thought I did well.  Now, I waited to see the reaction I would get.  I want to tell you that what came next…I wasn’t ready for.  The Lord was more than gracious to me.  My church family was so kind and thankful to me.  I won’t share what exactly was said at this time.  Some of what was said was just so nice.  I do not want those comments to become a spring board for my ego because it’s not about me.  I was just thankful that God’s people were edified in some way.  And for whatever kind things were said to me, it was and still is no light matter.

Pulpit Respect

I’ve always respected the pulpit.  There are times when I’ve thought that so-and-so didnt’ preach such a good sermon.  I hesitate to say that, but I’m sure I’m not alone.  Either way.  And by preaching a bad sermon I don’t mean saying stupid or theologically ignorant things.  I’ve heard some “good” sermons that the preaching itself was really good while the content was off-base.  I mean when a sermon just doesn’t seem to come together all that well.  I can see how sometimes this can just happen, especially, when life gets in the way.

We are still a people who sin and we are going to fall short. I also wouldn’t be surprised of God would have someone stumble so as to humble them and humble those listening who might put certain folks on a pedestal.  Even if this is so and you hear a “poor” sermon God can still teach you.  He may be teaching you about yourself and your lack of humility.  It’s something to think about and it’s  whole different ballgame looking forward from the pulpit.  Personally, I will be much more controlled in my passing of judgment in the future.

I do think that if God has given one to preach and teach then he will gift them to so do.  And with such a gift there will not be a constant delivering of poor sermons.  God’s people must be edified and feed through His word.

Closing Thoughts

Tell your preacher thank you.  Show him the appreciation he often doesn’t get.  The Lord has given you to your pastor to watch over and feed so love him as such.  You just never know when the pastor is having a hard time and might really think that his sermon just stinks.  That small note or word of encouragement could really life him up.  As a body, we should be doing that for one another anyways.  As for me, my pastor took notes and is going to share his insight of how I did.

Finally, I’m ready to do it again!  If the Lord would have me do so.

Tomorrow, I plan on posting the mp3 of this devotion if anyone is interested in hearing it.

For what it’s worth,

Mark

p.s. Using an outline it makes like easier.  Just ask my wife who never stopped encouraging me to do so.  🙂

p. p.s.  I almost forgot my pastor friend Eddie who also helped me through my worry.

UPDATE: Get the MP3 here.

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tagged as , in Arminianism,Baptist,Gospel,theology

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jason April 6, 2009 at 7:19 pm

That is great Mark. I’ve been in the pulpit one time and I can tell you handled it much better than I did 🙂 Sounds like God is using you in powerful ways! God bless!

2 Mark Bainter April 6, 2009 at 8:25 pm

I can so identify with your fears and concerns. I’ve not yet had to face actually standing behind that sacred desk to address the congregation in that manner – but the rest I certainly can identify with. Especially this:

For example, when I teach Sunday School I always seem to over prepare. I’m working on it though.

I have an ever-present concern to be sure that I am ready to answer any possible question those I am teaching may ask. I want to be ready to give an answer and edify the group I’m addressing no matter what direction might be taken in the discussion or what questions they may ask. I never want them to have to believe something just because I say it, so I do extensive research on any minor point I think might come up – even though it almost never does.

3 Mark April 6, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Jason,

I bet I didn’t necessarily handle it better than you, only differently.

Thanks for the encouragement.

Mark

4 Eddie Exposito April 6, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Good to hear it went well bro… I remember when I first taught a VBS about 15 yrs ago. Later I would preach in the pulpit. The hardest thing for me to learn was to be myself and not try to be my favorite preachers. At the risk of sounding new-ageish I had to find ‘my voice’.
One man that had a tremendous impact on me in that regard was Pastor Don Fry at the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church in AZ. His use of intonation, inflection, and pauses taught me plenty and for that I am grateful to the Lord.

I pray that if the Lord wills you, too, will be able to look back and see how He’s taken you down a similar path.
Stand firm.

5 Mark April 6, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Mark, I can definitely see you over preparing too. 🙂

Eddie, I understand. One of the things I did try to do is just be me. Thanks again for the encouragement.

Mark

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