The sermons I was most excited to preach were the ones most criticized. Therefore, I have determined to never be excited about preaching.
This isn’t even a joke.
This amazed me as a young pastor. Without fail, the sermons I was most excited to preach got the most ridiculous responses from people. I mean, not just that they disagreed with me, but they belittled me, my intelligence, and occasionally called me names.
There was one series I planned for our midweek Bible study. It’s a small group, most attenders were loyal to the church and, I thought, to me.
I was thrilled for this new study. I had done research and even had a cute name for it.
I preached my first Bible study of the series and there was silence, followed by one guy just ripping me to shreds about how dumb it was and by default, how dumb I was for coming up with it. I mean, people commented afterward, “Wow, what was up with that guy?”
This has happened multiple times now. There will be some point, some insight I’m particularly excited to share, and it will inevitably be attacked mercilessly.
I always assume it’s me. Maybe there’s something bad I do when I’m excited. Maybe my energy is taken as arrogance. Perhaps I’m too strong-armed with it. Maybe excitement looks like ATTACK!
I recently got a dog. I began reading books and watching videos about dog training. One of the insights is that dogs will copy the humans’ emotional state. Dogs don’t understand spoken language; they read body language and tone of voice.
Maybe that’s what people in my church do. Maybe they don’t hear the words coming out of my mouth; maybe they just see the excitement in me. They respond by copying that energy, which apparently looks like vile hatred emanating from my pores.
I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is this: I no longer try to get too excited about what I’m preaching.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m typically excited to preach. In fact, if I’m not I consider that to be a bad sign. I want to preach the Word and I love doing it.
But I also know that my excitement is often pride. I think I’m cute. I think I’m powerful. I think I’m something. Sometimes the energy is a warning sign that I’m getting carried away in myself.
I’ve wondered if maybe the response I get when I’m excited is the Lord correcting my pride in my brilliant insights. Maybe those people are my thorn in the flesh to keep me humble.
I’ve learned to watch my energy level when it comes to preaching. It’s good to be nervous. It’s good to be ready to go, and it’s also good to match the appropriate emotion with the sermon subject.
But be careful. Too much of an emotion is almost always a sign that the flesh is geared up. Pride has entered the building and humility is about to walk in!
Pride goeth before destruction,
and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly,
than to divide the spoil with the proud.