Wednesday, January 05, 2011
By faith, by faith, by faith...
Early on in the adventure called "following God's call", I was fortunate to be invited to preach in various churches around the Macon area. Usually I was standing in for the pastor who was away,or even more likely one of a parade of "pulpit supply" preachers. When a small church loses its pastor, many times two committees are formed - a pastor search committee and a pulpit supply committee. The first is thinking long term, and the second is focused on finding someone for each week.
My experiences and venues varied wildly during that time.
So did my preaching.
My first attempt, which I had practiced for over and over again and honed to 22 minutes of brilliance, delivered a stunningly succinct 10 minute message. What the congregation didn't know was that the original 22 minute message had actually been combined with another to make it to the ten minute mark. The funny thing was that I made it back to our home church (Mt Zion Baptist in Bolingbroke GA) before they got out.You'd think I'd have been invited back simply because of my brevity, but no.
Later, after desperately studying preaching fundamentals and having the benefit of the beginning of my seminary education, I got better. One thing a professor told me really helped a lot. "Preach two or three sermons really well", he said. "You are only there once and they won't know you've preached it before." After thinking about that, and considering the alternative, I decided to do just that. So I had a handfull of sermons that I worked on every week and kept practicing and honing the insight and illustrations. People seemed to respond to them. Well, most people. My family got a little tired of hearing one in particular.
Hebrews Chapter 11 is an awesome list of some of those God considers as faithful. It's like a "Hall of Fame" for faith. So in my search for sermons people would connect with, the passage was perfect. Here are ordinary people doing extraordinary things because their faith in God was real. Part of the sermon was my stirring repitition of the passages "By faith (insert Biblical heroes name), repeat, and repeat a few more times.
It's not an exaggeration to say that my family, while outwardly supportive, inwardly GROANED when that began, and gave me fits about it on the long rides back home. I think one even said she'd throw a hymnal at me if I ever did it again. Now to be clear, she didn't have a problem with faith - just the repetitious way I was preaching about it.
You've got to have faith.
As a pastor and as a family, we have to live by faith.
Faith in God, and faith in the group of people that God has placed us within.
We all repeat that here. Often. No groaning accompanies it. Must have been the preaching.