Sermon Expectations

I’m not going to identify the preacher to spare him possible embarrassment, but knowing him, he’d probably enjoy the notoriety. He shared this with a group of us one day ago and I’ve smiled about it ever since.

A few of us preachers were confessing mistakes we’d made in the pulpit. During a pause, he said, “Well, I once told the congregation to turn to some scripture, something like Luke chapter 5, verse 31. And when I got there, I saw it was not the text I had in mind. But for the life of me, I couldn’t find my note with the correct text. So, I just read that verse to them and then preached it!”

The other pastors howled. I suppose we all could just see ourselves doing that. Or maybe we took pleasure in knowing that with all the dumb things we’ve done, we never did that!

The preacher said, “When it was over, the people said it was one of my most spirit-filled messages ever.”

That, I suggest, is not a very good testimonial for sermon preparation.

I thought of something Bill Nimmons said. At the time he was the associate pastor of Starkville, Mississippi’s First Baptist Church, serving under Pastor D. C. Applegate, a lovely man of God with multiple health problems. Bill had unfortunately learned to expect those last-minute phone calls informing he that he would need to fill in for the pastor. That’s what happened this particular Sunday.

The call had come during breakfast that Sunday morning, leaving Bill almost no time to prepare. However, God took over, everyone agreed, and the sermon was excellent, the service a blessing, and a number of people responded to the invitation. Just before the benediction, the chairman of deacons announced, “This afternoon, Bill will have time to prepare tonight’s sermon. So, this morning, we saw what God can do. Come back tonight, and we’ll see what Bill can do!!”

It helps to have a sense of humor about church work.


I’m still stuck on the first story, the one where my friend and colleague preached Luke 5:31 “accidentally on purpose”. If that was indeed the text — he wasn’t sure — then he happened onto a good one.

“Jesus said to (his critics),

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