Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rubble University: Part I, You are NOT a Preacher

Although I wouldn't recommend it: pain, trials, and sinful choices are a full semesters worth of Life credit. Despite the last three years being the most challenging and failed of my short existence, I still believe I have lived, by the grace of God, an easy and comfortable life.  I feel, today, God's favor on me, a heavy hand of favor that makes me cower undeservingly.  It is the cherry on top of a 3 year journey in humility.  I'm not saying "I'm humble," but rather that I have been humbled...forced against my pride to rely fully on an a life in God.  In short, I've learned a lot from my failures: moral failures, failures born of ignorance, and failures from immaturity.

This post is the first in a series where I offer a brief summary of "leadership/ministry" lessons.  Lessons I've scavenged from the rubble, lessons I wish I knew earlier (probably should have known).  I tailor them toward preaching and ministry but you can apply them to any role involving leadership and responsibility (even parenting).  I hope something in the next several posts can encourage and challenge you.

1.  You Are NOT a Preacher (Minister):   You are not a preacher.  You are a child of God gifted and called to preach.  If you woke up today and the pulpit was gone, your office empty, and the name plate on your wall replaced, would you know who you are?  Yes, you would grieve the loss.  But would you be lamenting the loss of a loved job or the loss of your identity? When you make preaching your identity, it becomes your god, and all idols eventually rust, break, and leave you bloody and exhausted after dancing and shouting for hours on end with no response (I Kings 18).  And when preaching becomes the god to whom you sacrifice, you hinder the effectiveness of your ministry and the Kingdom of God.
    First, when your value and self-understanding rest on the soft foundation of preaching rather than the steadfast love of God, your ministry moves away from God to yourself.  Preaching becomes about your influence, your reputation, your ability, your growing number of "gigs", your skill, your eloquence, and your notoriety. Instead of pointing to the cross, you use the story of the cross to point to you.  When preaching becomes your identity it ceases to be preaching mutating into a religious talent show.  Preaching, by definition, is "A word from the Lord" and not a word about you.

    Second, you can expect an emotional roller coaster ride from hell...Highs, when you will look in the mirror and whisper to your dashing self, "You are awesome!" Lows, when you will want to crawl into a hole and die (no one would care anyway).  Your contentment will bob around like a buoy in a midnight squall, because it depends upon the congregational response. When the congregation praises your preaching, when they write raving reviews, you will feel amazing about yourself. But, when the criticism comes, you will not see the criticism as directed at your preaching but as criticism directed at you.  As your mood tettertotters with the congregational response, temptations arise: First, to tickle the ears of the hearer; second, to bounce from place to place in order to remain in the "honeymoon" stage; third, to ignore and/or avoid constructive criticism; fourth, to foster bitterness and resentment against the congregation when things go poorly.

    You are NOT a preacher. You are a Child of God. His forming you, his breathing life into your fragile frame, his delivering you, his inviting you to participate in his life...that is who you are. So, how do you remind yourself you are NOT a preacher?
    1. Take your DAY OFF (I made the mistake of not doing that).  
    2. Talk with your elders about rearranging your schedule to fit around family life rather than forcing family life to fit around your ministry schedule. For example, if you have young children at home, go to work at 9:00 AM instead of 8:00 AM.  You you can help get them to school.  Make that hour up studying from your house after they go to bed at night
    3. Find a hobby: running (should be manditory), hunting, fishing, cooking, shopping (within reason), Call of Duty, high school basketball, etc.
    4. Be gracious in sharing the pulpit.
    5. Bring in preachers who you know are better than you.
    6. Invite others to help you plan and brainstorm for your sermons. 
    7. Find a group of people you trust, who love you for you. Invite them to provide honest sermon feedback. 
    And I'm sure there are 100 other ways to live out of the reality that you are NOT a preacher; you ARE a child of God.

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