Since my last post I’ve moved from one state to another to take a new ministry post. My predecessor is one of my best friends, and he is uniquely and exceptionally gifted as a pastor and a teacher. The ministry is called University Christian Fellowship (in Birmingham, AL), and my friend founded it almost a decade ago. UCF has never known another leader. So in stepping into this dear brother’s former position, I am placing myself before the expectant (and perhaps even suspicious!) gaze of hundreds of college students who will be missing their last pastoral leader.
Tomorrow night I preach before this expectant crowd for the first time.
The sermon aspiring ministers preach as a part of their interview process for a pastorate is often dubbed the “trial sermon.” The difficulty is keeping the homiletical task to that of proclaiming Christ from the Scriptures and resisting the temptation to turn the sermon into a means of impressing a congregation and winning the confidence of the personnel committee.
My job status will not change after I preach tomorrow night’s sermon–the ‘votes’ have been cast. But I find a new dimension present in my sermon preparation for this particular message, for this initial sermon at UCF. And that new dimension is the task of avoiding any temptation to turn the act of preaching into a performance designed to gain the favor of those who miss their former pastor.
I am comforted by this realization that came at some point in the night: I have no one to impress, and only One to please. What restfulness this brings! I will never preach a sermon worthy of my subject matter (for this sentiment, I thank Dr. Robert Smith, my preaching professor from years back), so God will certainly not be impressed with my impassioned proclamation. And who really cares if any of the students are impressed? Jesus did not entrust himself to people because He knew what was in their hearts (John 2:24-25). So I have no one to impress. No one.
And I have no need to please anyone but God. His pleasure is sweeter than all human accolades, those so-called treasures so pitifully empty! No one to impress, and only One to please… I’m eager for tomorrow night–may God take all attention off the dumb guy with the mic and direct it toward Himself.