Back when I was a layperson, I heard a retired pastor talk about the futility of preaching. What he said stuck in my mind for a long time. He explained, “When I preach, I feel like a man who goes to the roof of a tall building with a bottle of eye drops, opens the cap, and pours the contents out over the edge, hoping that someone with an eye affliction might happen to be walking by below, and get hit with medicine in the eyes and be cured.
As a result of this pessimistic view of preaching, when I became a pastor, I regarded preaching as a pastoral duty that I faithfully performed without expecting any real result. So I couldn’t believe my eyes when people came forward to make commitments at my invitation after I preached.
As some of you may know, I got a C in my preaching class in seminary. So I am still amazed when people come forward to make a commitment after my sermon or when I hear that many of my sermon CDs are sold every week. I believe that it’s not because I’m a good preacher but because God somehow uses me as His spokesperson. Another reason might be that our church members are so hungry for God’s words that my poor sermons seem to touch their hearts.
I feel ashamed rather than proud when people compliment my sermons and come to church regularly but do not walk the Christian walk. When they praise my sermons, I feel that they’re just pleased that I’ve affirmed their preconceived ideas. The purpose of preaching is not to please people but to challenge them. So when I hear compliments from people like these, I feel like I’m selling out. I would rather these people be angry than pleased with my sermons.
I am most pleased as a preacher when people tell me how their lives have changed as a result of my sermons. I am particularly pleased when people quote parts of my sermons that I don’t remember myself, and testify how it has affected their lives. That makes me feel like that I have successfully accomplished my duty as a spokesperson for God.
Even after preaching for many years, it’s still difficult. I don’t think that it’s one of my primary spiritual gifts. Whenever I preach, I still feel the weight of the fact that I am speaking for God. So I tend to avoid preaching unless I have to. But this doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy preaching. I consider it a privilege and a blessing because there are so many people who claim that my sermons changed their lives.
Showing a changed life is the truest compliment for preachers.
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