Preaching and other crucial things
Sunday morning is game day for me. Opening the scriptures and nourishing the flock of God in their faith in Christ is by far the most important responsibility I have. So, I’m nervous (more or less) every Sunday, anxious to do a good job of it, concerned that God’s voice be heard in the hearts of everyone he brings that day. This is, I think, as it should be for me. Imagine if a teaching pastor took lightly the opening of God’s Word.
But, though the sermon is the most important thing I’m doing, it is not necessarily the most important thing happening in each life there. The Spirit is doing many other crucial works on Sunday mornings that are only tangentially connected to the pulpit, all of them aimed at the growth of the gospel in people’s lives. In any healthy church there are many invisible (to us) ministries going on that are not reliant on or even very affected by the sermon. Prayer groups, connections between people, worship and praise, new friendships forming, old ones re-grouping, personal spiritual direction through casual conversations—all of this is dynamic and health-giving. And it happens spontaneously around the main service without programing or supervision. These are tiny powerful deeds done quietly by the Spirit in unobtrusive and apparently random ways. (I have discovered there are no “random” events in ministry, no real “accidents.”). Bottom line: it seems that most of what the Lord is doing on Sunday morning He’s not telling me about.
Why do I need to remember this? Because if my only metric for ministry is preaching I will be too elated with a good sermon and conversely too dejected if I think I blew it. I’ll take too much on my own spiritual shoulders. This happens to us pastors all the time. It can produce anger, pride, depression and a myopic or overly critical view of the health of the church. In my attempts to oversee ministry (from the pulpit point of view), I may overlook a ton of excellent spiritual work that God is doing.
I have found it a relief to step back, practice what I preach (that God is at work among us), and relax a bit about the impact of my preaching. It has helped me do a better job in the long run.
Just a Thought,