A Minister's Prayer, Part 2

"My Master God, I am desired to preach today, but go weak and needy to my task;"

Long story short. I entered pastoral ministry while in Bible College in 1976. I preached a few times but frankly, it never came easy to me. I felt uncomfortable, and that discomfort grew as time went on. I was the Associate Pastor on a two-man staff, so it was not something that I needed to be doing, so I gradually let it alone.

In 1980 I took a position in a larger multi-staff church. For 23 years I did not preach outside of one Good Friday service. A series of circumstances led to the departure of the Senior Pastor in the winter of 2003. We were by then a three-person staff and it appeared despite my length of service that the church would not be able to sustain three people. I felt I might be the odd man out. I asked our Elders for the opportunity to preach in the interim for several reasons, some for the benefit of the church having a familiar face, but also because I wanted to see if this was something that I could do, and thereby open other opportunities for ministry beyond my previous experience.

As God had it, the interim became permanent, and in a month I am coming up on my fifth anniversary of regular preaching. I have grown to love the opportunity. Preaching can be discouraging (Is anyone growing?) and it can be challenging (How am I supposed to present this passage?). I have days when I wish I could say, "Ok. Let's take a break and let me do this again and hopefully get it right." I also have days when I sense God's hand in a bit of a different way. Preaching is tiring, which is why my Sunday afternoons are given to a good nap. Those of you who preach know the drill.

I resonate with the words of the Puritan brother who wrote the sentence above. I feel that I must preach to be doing what God wants me to do. Yet I am fully conscious of my own weakness and need. I am grateful for each Sunday that God gives me the opportunity to share His Word. I can see how it would be possible to be so comfortable in preaching that doing it is almost second nature and hardly a thought is given to the magnitude of the task or the consequences in the lives of people. But I pray that does not happen.

If you listen to my sermons you won't hear a great orator. What I hope you would hear is someone doing his best to share what a text is saying and how that message relates to the lives of people who, after 28 years, have become dear to me.

Guys are not great at acknowledging weakness or need. And it is very possible for pastors/preachers to think that they are strong enough for the task. But I have come to learn that one of the things that I must keep in mind is that this work is one for which I am weak and needy.

Thank you, Lord, for providing the strength.


Don Johnson said...

Hi Peter

One of the things I have found is that the Lord uses even poor sermons. So I take some comfort in that.

Also, I have done "do overs". I have gone back to the same text next week if I don't think I got it right last week. Not too often, I think about twice. But I'd be ready to do it again if needed.

Of course, when I am in an extended exposition series, I go so slow that I preach several messages from the same verse or verses, so I can 'do over' without doing the exact same thing over.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3