four reasons I didn't preach yesterday

Yesterday was a Sunday within one of the "anchor" weekends for churches - the one closest to Christmas. Some congregations put a lot of eggs into this basket, while other churches close down and bank on a Christmas Eve celebration or an emphasis the week before (and face some constructive thoughts for doing so).

We had services, but I didn't preach yesterday... and I don't mean for this post to come across as a criticism of others who did. There's enough criticism over style between churches, and I genuinely celebrate the different ways my peers stepped up for Christmas in some way and "brought it" in however it honored God and the people they are ministering to.

So whether or not this affects you, I'd like to share these thoughts and hope they speak into your slice of life... whatever that may be.

Four Reasons I didn't preach yesterday:
  • A conversation I had a month ago:  Without going into too many details, I was around someone recently who has been under justifiable fire for his choices in life and ministry. I won't comment on that, but I will share about a conversation we had as I walked him from one place to another. I received a text was from a congregation member, and it read: "Hey Tony. Hope you're having a good trip. Wanted to let you know Joanie knocked it out of the park this morn. No kidding. Grand slam world series! Rob"

    "That's awesome," I involuntarily said out loud.

    "What's that?" asked the man I was walking with.

    "Oh," I said, "it's just this cool text I got. I'm obviously away from my church, and the person who taught today did a great job. This is a text from one of the church members who really was blessed by it."

    He smiled, yet shook his head. "Trust me on this, you're not going to want to hear that as you mature into ministry. If you get a text like that ten years from now, you'll feel much differently about it. You don't want other people in your church to be a better teacher than you."

    My jaw wanted to drop, but I held it back - honestly, because I wasn't sure I heard what I'd just heard.

    "Seriously?" I asked.

    "Seriously," he answered.

    I mean this with all of my heart... if that is what "maturity" looks like, I hope I never grow up. This was God's way of affirming my firm belief that that a church cannot be built around me, let alone the Christmas season. I immediately called up our speaker that day and affirmed her gifts, and since she wasn't available to teach during Christmas weekend I began looking for someone else who could.

  • Three services + three weeks = potential fumes: To make space for guests during the Christmas season, our church added an extra service for the first three weeks of the month. While I felt fresh each Sunday, the cumulative effect of those extra services created the potential for Christmas fumes. Meaning, when you become so familiar with something so precious, you can forget how precious it is and speak/think on auto-pilot. I wasn't about to do another service where I'd be potentially talking mechanically versus from a fresh place. This is one of the reasons why I won't preach for more than six weeks in a row without taking a break - the "six-on/one-off" principle of Sabbath should be built into all areas of life.

  • Volunteer opportunity: Our Kids Connection ministry is simply amazing, but not everyone "gets it" which means we often are challenged to staff our classrooms during non-holiday weekends. Throw in some Christmas travel, though, and even some of our amazing regular volunteers may not be around. So I volunteered to fill in some gaps in our Pre-K/Kindergarten schedule... and it was a blast!

  • Prophesy Dorsey "brings it."
  • The God factor: As I said earlier, God is bigger than me and needs to be the anchor of the church I serve. While it's easy to build a church around a pastor's charisma and personality, it's healthier and biblical to build it on the Lord. Otherwise, a congregation will unconsciously follow the "man of God" versus God... and if that pastor leaves the people leave as well.

    I knew that our speaker yesterday, Prophesy Dorsey (yes, that's his real name), would be a great conduit for whatever God wanted to stir up. Turns out, I was right - and several people took some great strides forward with Jesus because of it. I'm so thankful for the way the Holy Spirit works through all kinds of people, including my friend.
Look - I know I'm not Rick Warren Hybels Stanley Driscoll MacArthur Bell, so this post may not have the same weight as if they would have written this. No matter - I'm not writing this to impress, but to confess.

As I said, I hope this applies to you in some area of life... so think about it. Some people find their security in their achievements, resume, or skill set - and I have that temptation just as you do. I've seen pastors gauge their success based on the number of baptisms they do, just as I've seen parents track their worth through their children, business people define themselves through their quotas, singles look for security through marriage, and adults feel like their high school achievements were the defining moments of their life.

We all look for ways to feel like we're making a difference in life, but when we can't be content stepping back from those things and not being the center of attention things may be a bit unhealthy. It's why I don't track the amount of people who visit my blog or how many people come to our church services. This is also why I "like" every post on Facebook where someone else is applauded for their gifts/abilities by someone else... not because I'm completely healthy in this area, but because I recognize my unhealthy temptations.

It's also, by the way, why I saved that text from the congregation member and locked it from ever being deleted.
Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. (Psalm 127:1)