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 that 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 which 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.