Editor’s note: This is an opinion column.
It’s an old story about a preacher who felt prideful about his sermon that morning. At lunch he asked his wife, “How many really great preachers do you think there are?”
Every preacher knows times we feel we connected — we did a good job — and other times we feel we didn’t connect. In the latter case pastors joke at ministers meetings about having the “Monday morning blues.”
Communication theory calls it “feedback,” which means the audience lets us know how we’re doing, most often nonverbally on Sundays. They look bored or sleepy or puzzled. This is one reason eye contact is important. If some look unengaged, we know we’re not speaking clearly enough.
I suppose there are many reasons why we think we failed. One can be the length of the worship service. Sometimes people ask for five minutes and take 20 for their testimony or song, and the congregation is wearied. Sometimes a pastor himself is weary from a sleepless night. Or maybe he thought he’d do a better job conjugating that Greek verb than he was able to do.
Expounding scripture is a serious responsibility that demands humility. It could be our feelings of failure are a tool in the hands of God to teach humility.
Pastors themselves can purposely demonstrate humility with self-deprecating humor. This means the pastor doesn’t always make himself the hero in the stories he tells—”I said the right thing at the moment,” or” I made a great decision in an awkward situation.” Sometimes the pastor tells how he messed up. This kind of humor doesn’t offend others, and may encourage them.
Another way pastors demonstrate humility is with confessional preaching. This is a more modern approach since one can hardly imagine the classic preachers telling about having arguments with their wives or spending money foolishly. Confessional preachers tell about their struggles as they try to grow in discipleship. It’s argued that this kind of preaching demonstrates the pastor is imperfectly trying to serve God, has areas of needed growth and deserves prayer support, as do all those listening to his sermon.
I heard Pastor Rick Warren in a conference and was helped by an observation he made.
“We don’t have to hit home runs every Sunday,” he said, “just consistent singles.”
This was a welcomed word from a famed pulpiteer.
The “bottom line” is that pastors should study, prepare and speak to the best of their abilities, and trust God to energize their messages with his presence and power.
Sometimes what we say can be great encouragement for others even though we may feel we fell short of the mark. -30-
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.