I preach somewhere between 40 to 45 Sundays during the course of a calendar year. I am one of those fortunate ministers that get to deliver the same sermon twice on Sunday. There are times when I think that the first go around was just a good warm up for second service. And there are other times when I feel like I gave so much of myself in first service that there is not enough left in me for the second go around! Before the morning is over I have addressed somewhere between 600 and 670 people.
What is like to address that many people at least 40 times a year? I can assure you that people very free to react however they choose. Discretion is often checked at the door. Good manners are sidelined. Over the years I have had people walk out in the middle of my sermon. Every Sunday I observe individuals that appear to be bored or disinterested. Some people feel compelled to provide an immediate and sometimes detailed critique in the foyer after the service. Others just choose to share sermon reviews with their friends, and so I end up getting it third hand.
The varying responses to sermons keep my job interesting to say the least. I value constructive critiques, and appreciate stimulating conversations prompted by disagreement. I also quickly dismiss objections that lack any kind of substantive evidence. Hateful comments made directly or indirectly say more about the person initiating them than it does about me.
I do what I do at least 40 times a year because I feel called to make a difference. I want to say something that I hope will impact another person’s life. I realize in order to do that I must be real with people. When you choose to be real, it entails sharing what is in heart as well as what is in your head. Putting your heart out there for anyone and everyone to stomp on at will is a challenge to say the least.
One of the reasons I can continue to share my heart as well as my head is that I am surrounded by people who are blessed with the gift of encouragement. Periodically I receive emails with priceless content. Sometimes people tell me in the foyer with tears in their eyes: “I needed to hear THAT message today.” Others express their encouragement nonverbally as the sermon is being delivered. This week I received a message on facebook that was so encouraging I feel compelled to reprint it here. Here is a tiny excerpt of a larger message: You have been on my heart this week and I didn't want another day to go by without telling you how much I appreciated your sermon last Sunday. It was so refreshing and REAL...something we all need. I always know when you are passionate about something because it is written all over your face!
Do you want your preacher to be real? If you expect him to share his heart, then choose to share yours. It makes a difference. Genuine behaivor on your part will fuel the same on his part. When we choose to encourage, there is no telling what might hapen ! I actually think I can put my heart out there again one more Sunday…. And there is no telling what might be written on my face this week!