Many of you will identify with this, some of you won’t. I’m just thinking out loud here, so if you can’t see it, just ignore it. Sometimes people want to know why I write some of this stuff. The primary reason is that I am not young anymore and I want younger guys to know that what they are experiencing is not uncommon and that they can make it through the challenges. I love preaching and I love God's People and feel it an honor to be a part of His plan.
In my bad moments, when things aren’t going well I get to thinking I need to go. I need to leave. Why make “all these people” unhappy. Why make them have to endure me? Why be a part of the problem that keeps people from growing in God and loving the “experience” of worship with others. I’m in their way.
But I have to re-think that from a number of angles:
- First (yeah, I know I put a 1. there but I still feel like I should say first), If I leave I am only perpetuating a problem. For there has NEVER been a preacher who everyone loved. I went to dad’s funeral and thousands came and/or sent condolences. I’ve heard stories of how he changed lives and families and ministries - of the mountains he moved. A few weeks ago we went to dad’s office to start sorting stuff. Back in his back office there were eight boxes of random “stuff”. I suppose he just cleaned his desk off now and then. Side note: Now I know where I got my filing skills from! You won’t believe what I found among the jumble of this man who loved the Lord, who loved the lost, who wore himself out in our Master’s service, who did more than I can ever dream of doing, who was so driven and committed to a nonjudgmental faithfulness, who bathed all he did and said in the Word. Who taught me to love the Word and who influence I feel every time I sit to work on the little nothings I call sermons. I found an anonymous note that said accused dad of being a show boat and that his preaching was weak. Dear God, how could anyone say such? But there were people who didn’t even the Lord Himself - in fact they, thinking they were doing God a favor, killed His Son!
- I also know that if I leave there will be people who don’t like the next guy! And the next place I go there will be people who don’t like me there too. Those are just simple facts. Facts that I wish didn’t exist but still facts. I’m not special in this aspect, I try to love everybody, I assume most people trying to follow Christ do as well but there are some preachers that it’s hard for me to like.
- I have an odd history. I go to work with a place and love it and the people and the church grows and people mature and are drawn closer to God. Then I get a critic or three and I start second guessing me. And I start trying to change so the critics will be happy and they never are but the change makes my sermons and energies no longer help the people that were helped and nobody is better for it. And I get further and further from who I am and from whatever strengths that I do have. So I become miserable and leave. Looking at my own scoop blog I realize I am not the only one who does this. Brothers, change and grow as you learn and mature but don't change what works that is right to make people happy! Don't change to be like their favorite preacher. YOU BE YOU!
- My dear and wise friend, Ron Davis, told me one day: “The people who didn’t like WT (the previous preacher) probably won’t like you either and the people who loved him will love you too.” I didn’t believe him then but time has borne that to be typically true. Now, the easy thing is for us (me) to demonize people who don’t like me. To say they are not spiritual or good people and some of them aren’t but I have not found that to be typically the case. They are people who I love and I hurt that they have to hear a guy week after week who not only doesn’t feed them but who they, over time, have learned to fight against or ignore as they “listen”. They are people who love the Lord. They are people who think my approach is wrong. They see things differently than I do BUT that doesn’t mean I’m right and they are wrong. In fact I often think they are right.
- The only way for me to solve this is to get out of preaching. But then I think, if I did that and everyone else who did that who has been disliked got out there’d be no one left and I know that would not glorify God or make His Work go forward. Since someone dislikes every preacher...every preacher would have to get out of it. And then satan, I hate his name even, would win.
- Finally, I also observe that some people just enjoy being unhappy: They weren’t happy or faithful or loving it before. They like to complain and nitpick and find specks. And when I am gone I will be another in a list of preachers who they think don’t measure up.
So, who am I? What do I bring at my best?
- Energy: I have a lot and it is contagious - until I let someone steal it from me.
- Respect for Scriptures: I know I am not the best, I OFTEN disappoint even myself (ask Melanie if you don’t believe that) and sometimes I feel I do a bad job “exposing” the Word but that is NEVER because of a lack of respect for His Word.
- Love people easily, forgive and forget and try to understand everyone: I go on the immediate assumption that people I meet want to do right. That’s gotten me in trouble but I’d rather be a little gullible than miserably suspicious.
- At my best I can take a passage that is complicated and make it simple: I believe God sent His Word and meant it to be understood. And my mission as a preacher is not for people to think I’m smart but to help them be able to study and understand the Word more easily.
- Want to help people apply scripture to life
So, who are you at your best?
Dear God, help me to be the best me that I can be for You. I'm trying to change but I want my changes to be for You!