Every Sunday I come to the pulpit with a multitude of questions and great needs in my own heart. As a shepherd, I really want to help the Lord’s sheep through the power of God and His Word. Oh, how I long for souls to be saved as well!! I have asked for people to pray as I prepare my heart for such a serious and awesome time. Hence, this article written by Chuck Lawless resonates in my own heart today.
I’ve preached most Sundays since April of 1981. You’d assume by now that I could simply focus on nothing but the Word when I’m preaching, but I still think about other things at the same time. Here are some of those things that I—and, I suspect, many other pastors—think about:
1. I always need to pray more and live a more godly life. No matter how well my spiritual walk is going, standing before God’s people to proclaim His Word always magnifies my weaknesses. It’s humbling.
2. Am I really connecting? Even one distracted expression or one quizzical look will make me wonder. It’s funny how I’ll see that one person out of hundreds in attendance.
3. How much pain is sitting in these pews? I know some of the stories, but I’m sure many people are silently carrying heart-gripping burdens. That’s where I have to trust the Lord to connect the Word to their heart.
4. Who’s living in secret sin? Somebody is, I suspect, in most congregations. I’ve been around long enough to know that person might even be one of our leaders—including, sadly, the preacher.
5. Are they surfing the net rather than reading the Word on their phone?I struggle with listening to preaching sometimes, so I assume others do, too.
6. Why is that person sleeping? I’ve worked hard on this sermon, and I think its outline is decent—but still he (or she) is sleeping! I hope the fatigue isn’t related to my content and delivery, but I can’t help but wonder.
7. Will (name) finally turn to Jesus today? Most of us know somebody who hears us every Sunday, but who hasn’t yet turned from sin and believed. We preach expectantly, and too often we grieve as we wait through another Sunday.
8. I don’t see (name). I’m surprised how often I suddenly realize in the middle of a sermon that somebody’s not in his or her “regular” seat. We take mental attendance as we preach.
9. We need to fix that by next week. Whatever “that” is (e.g., a sound problem, a PowerPoint issue, a blank spot in the service), it’s not easy to just let it go if it disrupts the service.
10. I’m not sure that point (or that illustration) worked. What seems so perfect during sermon preparation doesn’t always come out well when the game’s on. To be honest, listeners don’t usually need to tell us when the sermon’s not working.
Here’s what you can do for us this weekend: Pray that we’ll stay focused on the task at hand. And, oh yeah, try to stay awake while we preach!