I took Prep and Del in the old art building on the campus of Freed-Hardeman College (now University). The legendary Billy Smith was my teacher and it was a blessing every day to be in that class with some great brothers who still encourage me. There are certain little things that still stand out in my mind about it all. One of the challenges that most every young preacher expresses is not knowing what to preach. Billy talked about so many different approaches. But one stood out to me. I remember where I was sitting in the room when Brother Billy told about the preacher who started in Genesis and over 40 years picked up at the text he had left off the week before. That amazed me. I’m not sure what impressed me more - the feat of preaching through the whole Bible or the thought of preaching at the same place for 40+ years.
I’ve been thinking a lot about preaching and the future - I suppose we do that more with each passing year. The unreflected on life is empty! I’ve preached 1680 Sundays - this week I am 37 weeks from Spring Meadows being the longest I have preached at any one congregation. It dawned on me a while back that this was happening and I calculated at that point I was roughly 100 Sundays away from that and I started thinking. If I only had 100 more Sundays at this place what should I preach. I literally started praying about it and trying to chart it out - not trying to fill every Sunday - need to leave some gaps for stuff that might come up. But what would I regret not having covered, emphasized, strengthened, stressed?
I’m told the average stay for ministers in Churches of Christ is about 30 months now. 130 Sundays. How long have you been where you are? How many Sundays do you have left? What if you knew your time was limited (because it is - you’ll either leave in a moving van or a hearse) and determined to chart it out? Here are a few things thinking about this has led me to conclude:
Preach Christ. That may be a little Sunday schoolish in that answer but we must preach Christ and Him crucified! It is what we must “know” among the people. David Shannon asked at the BETTER Conference: “How long does it take for Jesus to show up in your sermon?” Great question.
Thank God for each opportunity. This will bring you face to face with your own mortality or at least your own longevity there. Not many of us will stay for 44 years at one place like my dad OR 58 years like my father-in-law has done. And, friend, preach like you are thankful for the blessing of getting to preach, the joy of getting to share God’s Message with people, the sheer blessing of standing before an audience with heaven and hell in the balance! Who else gets to do something that cool?
Give your best to that audience: If you are like most preachers you face the challenge of wanting a different audience than the one in front of you. You wish you preached at _____. Or you preach to folks not present, who left or who never came. Or to rail against the ills of society ignoring the hurt, sin and questions of the people in the pews. This is the audience you have. The audience God allows you to be before. Preach to them!
Preach like you are going to be there forever AND preach like this is your last day. I know it’s impossible to do both. But follow me. If every sermon is like a Gospel Meeting/Revival sermon you’ll never feed the saved. You’ll never help people mine the depths and richness of God’s truths. But even when you are deep don’t lose your fervor! Preach every time with passion!
Say something! You may not want to be, but you will be remembered! For good or ill or nothing! Do you want to be remembered as a whiner who was always angry about something? Do you want to be remembered as someone who stood for nothing? Do you want to be remember as someone who loved the members and ministered to them? Do you want to be remembered as someone who did nothing impactful but just filled time? Say something!
And brothers - PREACH! This ole sin sick world needs your voice for the glorification of God and good.