11/29/2009 11:32:00 pm

Difficult Second

Posted by Tom French |

I preached at my church again tonight. It was my second time preaching at my church. I was a little nervous about it because I feel like the second one is always harder than the first. Unless your first was a shocker.

See the first you give a heap of attention to. And so you generally do an ok job. But then if you do ok with your first, then you can be tempted to slip for number two, rest on knowledge that you're too awesome to stuff up. Or you've put all your good stuff into number one that number two is just looking for scraps.

It's like this with a band's second album or a TV show's second season. And I feel like it could be like that with preaching. My second sermons at my old churches were pretty dismal.

And in order to avoid that happening tonight I wanted to be working on tonight's sermon for a while before hand. In some ways I was, I was thinking about it well in advance. But I only got down to serious work on it about two weeks ago. Still two weeks is a lot longer than I was able to give sermons in the previous seven years.

But this week, when I looked at my week I realised I wasn't going to get any time to work on the thing let alone write it. My days and my nights were full. I worked most days last week. Friday I was working, then I had Youth Group. Saturday I was hanging out with Hannah and then worked ushering right through to 11:30pm. As I caught the train home last night I wrote out the outline of my sermon.

Today, I had a church meeting, and then five and a half free hours, between when that finished and when I preached. So I came home and typed hard, stopping only for some essential wedges and Coke. I finished with a printed sermon 9 minutes before church started.

I walked up to church thinking over everything I left out of the sermon, and everything I hadn't articulated clearly enough. I went over all the problems with the structure of the sermon. It's a normal process for me before I preach. Each time I preach I tell myself all the reasons why this one sucks.

Then I start to stress that I'll preach badly and people will think I'm a crap preacher.

Then I pray and say "God, use my words, good or bad for your glory. Make this about you not me." And then I still think the sermon is crap, but I have to keep remembering that it's ok if I look crap too. God can do what he wants.

Before I preached tonight I got moved by my inadequacy to be preaching and the enormity of the task of sharing God's word. I worked out a prayer to pray before I preached as a result. I reckon it was a good sounding prayer too. Then when I got up to pray, my mic started giving feedback and I forgot my beautifully crafted prayer, and just started thinking about where I could stand on the stage where I wouldn't feedback. I tried to regain the prayer, but I lost the moment a little. I was disappointed God wouldn't hear how elegantly I could articulate my inadequacy to preach his word. But I reckon he probably knows that already.

In the end I was happy with the sermon. I got thirsty, as I often do. I remembered my water this time but it was too far away. I need a stool with my water on it, like this. But that would look a little wanky.

Speaking of wanky, when it was time to preach tonight, I had to carry the lectern myself from the side of the stage to the middle. There was no one to carry it for me. Standards are slipping. If we were Hillsong there would be someone with the lectern ministry, and rightly so. Someone did it for me on a camp last year, and I think there were 25% more salvations because I was free to just focus on bringing the word, not carrying lecterns around.

What's actually embarrassing is that when I walked up on stage I thought to myself "No one has moved the lectern for me." No joke. Someone should punch me.

Anyway, I was happy with the sermon. I censored myself on the jokes about nudity and porn stars, which I think was the right choice. Although I reckon they would have been funny. For instance, which do think is funnier a monkey dressed as an astronaut or a monkey dressed as a porn star? Need I say more?

All up, I'm hoping God is using the sermon to change us and see him more clearly. However inadequate I am to preach with all my vanity, self-love and self-doubt, God is bigger. And despite who I am, I know his word will not return to him empty.

And that is my post-preach debrief. Until I podcast it, and then I'll debrief again on the preaching blog. But I'll probably mostly just talk about the content there. And I haven't really talked about that at all. I don't want to mix the content too much. You know, I can't deprive the cross-readership.

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