Like most pastors, I will never forget the first sermon I preached. It was a cold, blustery Saturday night in downtown Albuquerque. There were about 30 people in attendance, but this wasn’t your normal church crowd. This was the Saturday night service at the Union Gospel Rescue Mission. You know the drill at a rescue mission: they have to sit through the sermon in order to get a hot meal. To say that those attending were disinterested is putting it mildly. I remember a couple of the guys laying on the benches while I preached my 12-minute riveting sermon on Blind Bartimaeus.
About halfway through my message, I looked over and the director of the rescue mission was standing in the doorway. I guess he was concerned that guys would gladly opt to give up a hot meal, a shower and a bed in order to escape my sermon. As I glanced up from my notes to see the director guarding the door, I had the perfect vantage point to see that inside his worn blazer was a shoulder holster with a loaded gun. So, basically, we had to hold people at gun point to get them to listen to my first sermon. And here’s the real kicker… I was just 15 years old.
I wish I could tell you at the end of my sermon 7 men came and gave their lives to Christ. Or, I would love to be able to tell you that years later I bumped into one of those men and he told me how the message on Blind Bartimaeus had been a defining moment in his life. The truth is, after I spoke that night, all of those men quietly slipped out to get in line for their hot meal.
As I think back on that inauspicious beginning to my preaching career, I’m kind of surprised that I ever preached another sermon. But since that day I have preached thousands of sermons. Why? Because like you, I have a calling on my life to preach. In 1 Corinthians 9:16 (NIV) Paul declares "For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" Let those words sink in. Sit with them for a moment.
We are compelled to preach. We do not preach because we are paid. We do not preach because it’s what our congregation expects. We do not preach for the affirmation it brings. We preach because we are compelled. We preach because we are called. We preach because we believe in the life-changing power of the gospel.
I believe in preaching… and so does God. Of all the strategies that God could have used to get his message out, he chose ordinary men and women like you and me.
Paul says earlier in 1 Corinthians 1 that God was “pleased” through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe. Preaching is still God’s plan. Whether it is on the simple stage of a rural church or on the platform of a megachurch surrounded by lights and high-tech media, there is something powerful about that moment when you stand to preach the timeless truth of God.
So, today as you prepare to preach, I just want to remind you that it matters. I know there are Sundays when it feels like it doesn’t matter. There have been plenty of Sundays when I got in my car after preaching and I was disappointed. Sometimes I was disappointed because of the way I delivered my message and sometimes I was disappointed by the lack of response.
But then I remind myself that I’m not in charge of results. That’s up to God. My job is to do what Paul commanded: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.
2 Timothy 4:2 (NLT)
Sometimes I liken what we do in preaching to being the FedEx delivery guy. A lot of preparation has gone into being able to deliver the right package to the right location. Once that driver walks up to your door and hands you the package, he has faithfully completed his assignment. What you do with the package is up to you. His job is just to get the right package to the right person at the right time.
That is our job in preaching; to take the right package (your sermon) to the right people at the right time. The difference is that the package you are delivering is the eternal Word of the living God.
I hope as you preach this week that you will feel a deep sense of call and a deep sense of God’s power. I looking forward to connecting with you each week.