For the month of June I have been preaching weekly at Redeemer Fellowship while Pastor Joe has been away on sabbatical. On June 28th at 1 pm, I officially ended my duties. Over the past month I have learned much about myself, our pastors, and about who God is. Here are some lessons I've learned.
A Work In Progress
During my years in ministry I have had many opportunities to share God's Word in youth groups or on Sunday mornings In these settings God used others to affirm His call on my life. But doing a "one-off" sermon is comparatively. I could spend weeks studying a passage, going through rough drafts, formulating pithy and memorable one-liners. Having to do a sermon week after week taught me that regular preaching is not as easy as I thought. I had previous experience, but of a different kind. There is a rhythm that needed to be learned. A rhythm of study, prayer, writing, trusting, and delivering. I learned really fast the difference between exegeting a passage and preaching God's Word. The difference between preaching and teaching. The difference between speaking to the mind and speaking to the heart. I have much to learn about preaching God's Word to God's people. All of this to say that I am learning that I am still learning. I am a work in progress.
It's Not Only About Sunday
I had this idea that preaching was all about Sunday morning. I would focus with the goal of delivering a sermon before the people of God. Man, was I wrong. I found during the month that sermon preparation was not only about studying and delivering, but praying. I am not talking about praying for help composing the sermon, though this is important and was a part of my week. I am talking about praying for the congregation. I could not stop thinking about the people. I would be at work, or not able to sleep, and picturing people where they usually sit. I would pray for their situations, struggles, and pains. Imploring that they would know God more. Begging the Lord to encourage and convict them to draw closer to God. I was overwhelmed by their need for the grace of God and my inabilities. One Saturday evening I sat in the sanctuary pleading that God would break through. I could not help but pray the words of Martin Luther:
Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
God Is Faithful
Despite my inabilities, despite my struggles, despite myself, God was faithful week after week. He encouraged people, convicted others, and softened hearts to seek His face. During the process God continued to show me that as pastors delivering His Word we can rest assured that He has worked before and will work again. That it is not about my abilities, intellect, or cleverness, but His Spirit and his word working in and through our people.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. (Psalm 91:4)
During this past month, I have come away appreciating our pastors even more. On top of their weekly day to day responsibilities, from counseling, to managing the life of the church, they study, pray, and deliver God's Word. Handling the Word itself is daunting itself. Our pastors commit themselves to loving others and presenting the glory of God.