I had lunch with a pastor last week who was hurting…I mean really hurting. Seeing this guy up front, you would never know it. He is dynamic, right on target, humorous – one of my absolute favorites. We talked about the expectation of having to be “on” every weekend (he says that Sundays come around every three days…) even when you are dying inside.
While I love to prepare for and deliver sermons, I think these are the two hardest things:
- The amazing regularity of the weekend services. It does feel like they come around every three days. The traveling speaker has his five sermons that he can memorize and hone and find the absolute best illustrations. The rest of us labor weekend after weekend, doing our best to be clear and fresh. While many of us have great staffs that do much of the pastoral work, we still have to make the time to prepare. Most of the time we don’t have the time to study, write, edit, practice, and re-edit a sermon like we would want. A fresh, clear, meaningful sermon week after week takes work; often I walk to my car on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. after preaching four times and wish I could have communicated an important point with more clarity, or driven the message home with an appropriate ending. But then, in three days, it’s the weekend again.
- Being “on” when you don’t feel like standing up. Being placed on a pedestal is unfair and unenviable. I know my heart, my wayward thoughts, my areas of temptation; and yet still I go back to the pulpit. People forget that preachers struggle with sin, doubts, fears, hurts, and disappointments just like everybody else. Add in a “two funerals and a wedding” week and the emotional tank can be nearly empty as we head up to deliver the expected passionate, impactful, powerful sermon. Some say, well, that’s your problem. You need to be vulnerable and share all your feelings. For sure, part of being real is being vulnerable and open. But let’s face it, the pulpit is not a counselor’s couch where I can sit and share all my feelings. And I don’t preach to a room full of counselors. Sitting in front of me are people going through the same stuff I’m going through. They want to be fed.
So there are my thoughts…no answers…just thoughts. I’d love to hear yours…