A friend who publishes an internet magazine for preachers and frequently picks up something from this blog to share with his subscription list wrote with suggestions on future articles we might want to write. See what you think about these subjects….
–the most difficult passage I ever preached. (Do I dare admit to him — and to myself — that if a text is really difficult, I don’t preach it? I usually stay with it until I get a handle on it and thus it’s not the most difficult any more. The most difficult ones are the least-studied ones.)
–the 17 best lessons I’ve learned in the pastorate. (So far, I’ve only come up with the first two: keep growing and keep praying.)
–the 12 funniest jokes I’ve ever told in the pulpit. (Well, the three funniest I told my first Sunday at one church and almost got voted out before I ever moved in. I’m still giving this one a lot of thought. Like most pastors, I tell them and forget them.)
–the 10 biggest mistakes I’ve made in the pastorate. (Is it possible to do this? The pastors who read this will understand that there are some mistakes we make that are so embarrassing or shameful or secret that one does not dare admit them, regardless how long ago they happened. In fact, one pastor I know when asked to compile such a list of career mistakes in his ministry answered, “My biggest was five years ago when I honestly answered a question like this. The deacons read it and soon I was out of a job.”)
–50 tips for young pastors. (Now we’re talking. Any pastor who has served at least five years could compile a list of 50 in 5 minutes. Here are two tips that come to my mind right off the bat. Number 50: “No matter how contemporary your service or how casual the dress code is for the congregation, no one wants the preacher to look like a slob. Dress just a tad better than the worshipers. If you wear a suit and tie, skip this one.” Number 49: “The pastor is the host of the worship service. Early in the service, welcome the worshipers and set the theme for the hour to follow. Staff members and the laity may lead other parts of the service, but jealousy keep the lead-off role for yourself.”)
(The friend who relayed these suggestions and who edits that online sermon service is Ron Forseth. His ministry is SermonCentral.com. So blame him. Better yet, visit his website and feast on the riches there.)
All right. Here’s a list I did without Ron’s asking for it.
“Nine Lessons I have learned in four decades of preaching…” (Ron likes odd numbers like 9 and 12 and 17.)
–to call a sermon of mine ‘poor’ is not humility but unbelief. That is, unless it was poorly prepared, inadequately thought out, and thoughtlessly delivered — in which case, calling it ‘poor’ is speaking the truth.
–to call myself ‘a poor preacher’ is a vote of no confidence in the One who called me to this work. Unless of course, I’m a lousy preacher who treats too casually the calling of God.
–to neglect to study the Word is not to depend on the Holy Spirit in the pulpit. It is laziness, rebellion, and sheer presumption.
–to judge my own effectiveness is to usurp God’s role for me. Paul left a similar confession in II Corinthians 10:12.
–not to encourage others to ‘heed God’s call to the ministry’ is to fail the next generation.
–to attempt the work of the ministry without years of preparation is to try what even the Lord Jesus, the disciples, and Paul could not accomplish.
–to attempt God’s work in my own strength is to invite failure, court personal breakdown, and insult the Holy Spirit.
–to preach only the parts of Scripture which I already live up to is to limit the Spirit’s power to teach, convict, and grow me.
One more thing. A scrap of sermon notes found in an old file.
Isaac Asimov (the science fiction author) once said the slogan of the 21st century will be: “No more Twentieth Centuries!” The unprecedented political corruption, global starvation, wars, nuclear race, Holocaust, and epidemics made the 20th the worst century for human beings since Creation.
Acts 2:17 quotes Joel 2:28: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.”
Without the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the old men will collect their gold watches and spend their remaining years working in the yard and watching the Wheel of Fortune.
Without the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the middle-age will obsess about their children, fret about the modern generation, work on retirement plans, and defend the status quo.
Without the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the young men will construct their lives around sports, girls, and beer.
A prayer: “O Holy Spirit of God, You are welcome in my life. I joyfully ask you to enter all facets of my life. Make me a new wineskin, suitable for the new wine of thy Spirit. Deliver me from small goals and ambitions unworthy for a son or daughter of the Almighty. Amen.”