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Monday, September 25, 2006

The Thoughts You Don't Preach...

Yesterday, in our second service, something caught my eye. I've been missing my tape measure ever since we rearranged the auditorium a couple months ago. About three sentances into my sermon yesterday, I spotted it in the far back corner of the room. It was so random, and I was so glad to have found it, that it almost interupted my train of thought while I was speaking. Fortunately, I realized there was no benefit in sharing with the Body, and continued on in Joshua.

It may surprise you to hear that other things run through a pastor's mind while he preaches. There are some who believe preaching is simply studying the text and then letting whatever "the Spirit leads" to come out of your mouth. Many imagine this to be a more "Spirit-filled" style of preaching, yet I find the battle is not what to say, the battle is knowing what not to say. Could some of it be Spirit filled (absolutely, I believe He drove me to a text I wasn't planning on sharing yesterday morning), but much of it can come from other sources, ranging from soap boxes to attempts to humor the crowd.

Here are the ten thoughts I remember running through my mind, but not out my mouth, while preaching:

10. Hey, my tape measure! Already explained that one.

9. I know you! About a year ago, I spotted a girl from high school. She clearly recognized me too, and even waved (while I'm preaching). I wanted to stop the message and find out if she knew Christ, it didn't seem she did in high school. But I waited until after the service to talk to her and yes, God had miraculously saved her!

8. I better watch what I say. Around six months ago, Tom Avey (a national fellowship guy) was a surprise visitor at our service. It made me pause and consider my words, which then made me pause again and consider why I care. Which then made me pause and wonder if I am watching my words every week. Which made me pause and ask God for forgiveness for the times I've stood in the pulpit lightly. Which made me thankful to God that He has not killed me on the spot for those times I've taken the gospel proclamation lightly and I asked Him to guard my heart in future times. At the end of this, I paused and wondered, How long have I been standing here silent in front of everyone? Fortunately, when I arrived home, my wife said she didn't even notice the pause.

7. Low neckline, High hemline, probably shouldn't look that way the rest of the message. When this happens, I'm sure the woman does not intend to be a distraction, she's probably not even thought about it. But it does make preaching a bit awkward when there is a section of the room you can't look at.

6. What time does our service end? Yeah, this one still happens a lot. I get up to preach and can't remember how much time I actually have. I've told Jason that maybe I need one of those red digital countdown clocks in the back of the room. When it reaches 00:00, Jason should just get up and begin playing music. I can crazily try to finish my message before I am completely drowned out by the music. It works on those awards shows.

5. Uh, oh--Greek/Hebrew word/City name/Geneology coming up and you're going to botch the pronounciation. Between being Apalachian (and not really learning English), and not paying attention enough in class, I know I mess up most transliterated elements.

4. You want to get up here and try this? One time, while preaching in Richmond, I had a gentleman sitting in the second to last row give me the "get on with it" geasture. I actually remember stopping in midst sentence, fumbling for words. I just moved on and pretended I didn't see it. The man was actually a nice guy and I don't think he realized he made an outward motion of his inward thoughts. I think it was a combination of his fatigue and my preaching a pretty poor sermon.

3. I could embarrass you sooo badly right now. Perhaps it is a greater problem for me than other preachers, but there is usually a person or two that is nodding off each time I preach. This is especially distracting to me when it is a person who either: a) is in leadership of some type, b) finds it necessary to take their nap in the first two rows of seating. It always crosses my mind to either shout, work their name into an illustration, or even shoot them with a squirt gun (unfortunately, I'm never packing). One time, while preaching, I even considered talking the entire congregation into leaving the auditorium, setting the sound system at a gentle buzz and then seeing if the person thought the rapture happened when they woke up.

2. Turn your phone off. It can happen to any of us. Sure, we may forget to turn our cell phone off, or to silent mode when we come to church. But if you forget, and your phone begins to ring, immediately silence it. Several times, I've been in the situation where the person just sits there, as if their denial of the distraction somehow makes it disappear. Trust me, it's much less distracting for you to jump to action and turn the noise off. (I almost considered rumaging through a woman's purse to find her phone and answer it in the midst of my sermon while she sat in her chair pretending it wasn't her's.) By the way, if you are in the room when this happens, use it as a reminder to check your own phone and make sure it is off.

1. Wow, I don't deserve her. It is incredibly encouraging to see my wife while I preach. She supports me fully and will look interested even if I have put the rest of the congregation into a comma. There are times that it is appropriate to commend her for being a godly woman and a wonderful mate from the front. But at other times, it would be a distraction from the text, or the church really doesn't need to hear just how cute I really think she is.

So the next time suggest a pastor loosen up, be prepared for what you are asking for. Often, yeilding to the Spirit is not saying things you weren't prepared to say, but rather NOT saying the things that run through your mind!


  • At 11:49 AM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    I can identify with just about every one of those, dude. Good post. Reminds us that the guy up front giving the message is human too.

    The one I would add is how often I have to belch while on stage, but find creative ways to refrain.

  • At 6:05 PM, Blogger BReformed said…

    That is hysterical...and so true. Yesterday, I had a napkin in my left pocket, and I have a bad habit of keeping my hand in that pocket (the emerging, casual look).

    By the time I was done, my nervous energy had shredded that napkin into a thousand pieces.

    Why don't preachers ever sneeze or yawn while preaching?

  • At 8:59 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    actually, this week my nose was running pretty badly. as i was preaching i was wondering how i was going to tackfully wipe my nose.

    i waited until we were reading another text. then, as i looked down, i grabbed a tissue and wiped away while i read. fortunately the people in the congregation were looking at their bibles too.

    there's a benefit of expository preaching you don't often here...the time looking at the text can be used to do other things while no one is looking!

  • At 11:29 AM, Blogger Charity said…

    I think the reason no one noticed is because they were all asleep! :-)

    I'm very proud of you and I love the way you preach!

  • At 4:57 PM, Blogger ~d said…

    asleep? not true, charity. we were all thinking, my, what a cute wife danny has! :)

    truly, truly - i hope you two never lose the love and admiration you have for each other.


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