Dear fellow preacher,
This is for those of you who are not yet (or have already been) on holiday this summer. Tomorrow you will once again climb into a pulpit or stand behind your cool plexiglass lectern.
Some of you have been at this for a long time. You preach every week. It’s always a privilege, but you are well aware that you are never more than 7 days away from your next preach. Some of you are still cutting your teeth. Some of you may preach to large crowds tomorrow morning. Some of you may preach (as you do, faithfully, every week) to just a handful.
Earlier I wrote an open letter on behalf of those who listen to us preachers. You can read it here.
I want to add something that it’s probably for us preachers to remind ourselves about rather than have someone else try to tell us.
It’s got to do with how you handle the reaction to what you preach tomorrow (or any Sunday, actually). Some of you will preach one of those special messages where the presence of God is almost tangible. People in the congregation won’t want to budge. At the end, some of them will thank you. You may discover that God so anointed you that by his grace you spoke into the specifics of some people’s lives. Someone may tell you that it’s the best they have ever heard you preach.
If you have any trace of humility you will squirm, at least a bit. But Sunday lunch will be good. The satisfaction of a “successful” Sunday morning. More – gratitude at knowing that God used you and blessed the work of your week.
There is something you need to remember.
It’s something Jesus told his followers.
One day he had sent 72 of them on a mission. Lambs among wolves, he said. In danger of being rejected. They were to heal and preach the Kingdom. The amazing thing was that the power of the Lord Jesus was with them as they went. By the time they came back they were overjoyed. Even the demons had been subject to them in his name, they said. Hallelujah!
Jesus denied none of the significance of what had happened. God’s victory march was underway – and these disciples were part of it.
But there was something even more important; something that should be a greater source of joy.
Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
God knows you. He has a note of your name. That’s more important than what you do for him, or what he does through you.
“Successful” preachers need to remember that.
And so do those who, by lunchtime tomorrow, may feel that they would be better off packing shelves in a supermarket. Maybe half the people will fall asleep. Maybe you will experience the sting of criticism (and isn’t it striking how one word of criticism can outweigh five affirmations?). Maybe it will be one of those Sundays when it feels as if your sermon never got off the ground.
God has a note of your name.