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As preachers, we want to see phenomenal results every week when people encounter God through our worship gatherings. One of the primary means of encountering Him is through the declaration of what God has said about Himself through the Scriptures. But we are not always great at it.

Each week, we hope that our sermon will be a homerun. However, I’ve hit a lot more singles and doubles than triples. I’ve hit even fewer homeruns. In all honesty, there are many Sundays my sermon feels like a poorly executed bunt that I have to hustle out to first base. So what are you to do when you just hit a single?

Remember, to begin with, it was not your sermon. The truth you are proclaiming is not your truth. It is God’s message to God’s people and those He is calling into submission to His sovereignty. It is easy to slip into an ownership mode about the sermon. After all, we tell stories about our family, our life, our struggles and our walk with Christ. But none of “us” should be the centerpiece of the message. It is His truth about Him.

Stop allowing your identity to be wrapped up in your performance. So you hit a single. God is still God. You are still you. Remember the counsel that you give out so quickly to machinists, stay-at-home moms, engineers and students: “Your work does not define you. Christ now defines your identity.” Seek to do all of your work as unto the Lord and remember the respective roles in the proclamation of the gospel. As the old adage goes, we are just beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.

Pray more for the effect of the truth than the delivery of your message. As you prepare for the message, spend more time praying for the people who hear it than for the lips who speak it. We must not fall prey to the temptation that our words will be the deciding factor over someone’s daily decisions or eternal destination. This is not to dissuade you from praying for yourself through the process. It is, however, to make your focus on the God who moves in the life of all people, including the preacher.

Accept your fallibility. I hate to stumble through a phrase or tell a bad joke or fail to connect with a crowd. Last Sunday, I misspoke during my message and said “awoken” when I meant to say “awaken.” I hate doing stuff like that. As much as I hate it, my church family actually loves it. For many preachers, true or not, you are perceived to be the smartest person in the room. Telling the occasional lame duck joke or mispronouncing a biblical name is actually endearing. When we move off the need to be the smartest person in the room, perhaps, just perhaps, God will shine brighter because of our humility.

Expect the proper response. Our focus should be on life-change because people saw Jesus, not heard from a preacher. In my life, I am trying to focus more on the response of people to the overall act of worship that has the Scriptures as its center point rather than to my witty banter. The truth is the truth no matter what. So, if your outline was not memorable and your voice cracked, it does not matter. The question we must ask is: “Did I state the truth of God’s Word and ask people to respond to it?”

Commit yourself to serving Christ and His church well. In no way do I want to excuse myself or you from poor preparation or shoddy workmanship. When last Sunday seemed like it fell short, then do what you know must be done. Pray more diligently. Meditate on the Word with greater eagerness. Ask for the filling of the Spirit with more desperation. Seek godly counsel from pastors who have walked this road longer than you. Whatever you do, do not settle for being a poor workman before God and His Word.

Singles happen. In fact, in baseball they are normative for any team. But they must not be satisfactory. In our work of proclamation, we should expect the supernatural to occur in people’s lives. I want to see people radically transformed by the power of the gospel as often as possible.

So let’s go about our work with earnestness seeking the power of the gospel for the good of all people. Swing for the fences and allow God to do His work. Remember, sometimes you sow seeds, sometimes you water what you cannot see is already planted, and sometimes you get to do the harvesting. Whatever our role each week, savor the work of Christ done in you.

Philip Nation is the Director of Ministry Development for LifeWay Christian Resources. He has served in pastoral ministry as a church planting missionary. Philip is the co-author of Compelled by Love and the author of Live in the Word.

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Sylvester Warsaw, Jr.

commented on Oct 31, 2013

We, preachers, should like everyone else give God our best, but, we, must remember Jesus is Lord of the harvest. Success in the body of Christ isn't define like success in the world. Our responsibility to help not only us, but, people to see their need for Christ in the life He's given us. It's a journey and we grow together.

Andrew Shields

commented on Oct 31, 2013

This is a great article. But I wonder, using this baseball analogy what people think about what a strike out would look like our a grounding out into a double play. Or in today's news the Red Socks winning the world series at home?

Charles Wallis

commented on Oct 31, 2013

Nice point. I hate the double play unless I am on the field playing defense!

Jack Gandy

commented on Oct 31, 2013

I believe that we should strive to hit a homer every time we stand behind the pulpit. Now, that is not always going to happen, sometimes because of circumstances beyond our control. But we should continually be working on improving those things in our control, to strive to always do the absolute best that we can for the glory of God.

Charles Wallis

commented on Oct 31, 2013

I agree

Dennis Cocks

commented on Oct 31, 2013

Very good article!

Mike Fogerson

commented on Oct 31, 2013

Philip, great article. Many years ago I stopped beating myself up after what I perceived as a poorly received (or delivered) message. It dawned on me that I get another shot in the batter's box at the next service.

Charles Wallis

commented on Oct 31, 2013

I appreciate this article. I usually swing for the fence and think we should always do our best. But lately I have been disappointed in myself and feel like I went down swinging. But in the end I notice what really matters is that the Word of God works in people's lives. If God can talk through a donkey, He can use people who feel like a donkey sometimes. Being humble and not taking yourself too seriously can help people relate better. Still it would be nice to preach like a Billy Graham!

Fred Gurule

commented on Oct 31, 2013

Just want to say thank you for your insight and practical way of evaluating my preaching. I needed to read this.

Norman Tate

commented on Oct 31, 2013

I found this to be a thought provoking article. I would add that the author did not take into consideration cultural differences that exist in the church. While I do not believe that the African-American Church has cornered the market on praise, our services are joyful and full of thanksgiving to our God. However with all of the singing and all of the praising, the sermon is the center piece of our worship. Therefore as we pray and prepare our messages we must for lack of a better term, "swing for the fences" in hopes that the Word of God will lead to change lives. If the sermon is not well prepared and delievered, parishinors in our culture leave concluding that something was missing. Just a thought

Norman Tate

commented on Oct 31, 2013

I found this to be a thought provoking article. I would add that the author did not take into consideration cultural differences that exist in the church. While I do not believe that the African-American Church has cornered the market on praise, our services are joyful and full of thanksgiving to our God. However with all of the singing and all of the praising, the sermon is the center piece of our worship. Therefore as we pray and prepare our messages we must for lack of a better term, "swing for the fences" in hopes that the Word of God will lead to change lives. If the sermon is not well prepared and delievered, parishinors in our culture leave concluding that something was missing. Just a thought

Marco Monroy

commented on Oct 31, 2013

Excellent Philip! Thank you so much for this article. I was particularly down this afternoon, and I was praying, asking God for guidance. After, I decided to read your article and, here it was, the answer to my prayer. Thanks!

Mike Ingo

commented on Nov 1, 2013

Very good article! Thank you for reminding me that "they are not my sermons." You are gift to the Body of Christ!

Rev. David Eleblu

commented on Nov 2, 2013

REV. DAVID ELEBLU(GHANA) This is a wonderful presentstion. A food for taught for all Ministers of the Gospel. Thanx

Rev. David Eleblu

commented on Nov 2, 2013

REV. DAVID ELEBLU(GHANA) This is a wonderful presentstion. A food for taught for all Ministers of the Gospel. Thanx

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