Cirque Shanghai.

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We’re not performers.
And we’re not performing.
Some people don’t know the words to describe what we do from the pulpit, so they use the word “performance.”
Once, a church member came up to me and said, “I’d pay for something like that” in referring to my sermon. All in all, it was a pretty sweet compliment. But, it just felt so wrong. I didn’t know how to respond.
That was 4 years ago. Before then and to this day, I don’t know how to respond when someone’s really complimentary towards me regarding my sermon. I awkwardly smile, then say ‘thank you’ and if they continue, I awkwardly laugh and say, ‘you’re too kind’ or ‘you’re giving me a lot more credit than I deserve.’ This isn’t a humble brag or anything like that. I genuinely feel awkward. There’s also a fear within me that once I start liking those compliments and praises, it’ll be the start of very slippery slope.

But, there’s a tension within me to do well on Sunday mornings.
To be on top of my game. To know what I’m talking about. To work on my delivery and the cadence of words. To work in my awkward charm so that I’m me up there and not pretending to be someone else and that my voice is my voice and not a “preacher’s voice.”
I preach the sermon to empty chairs on Saturday evening (sometimes past midnight to ensure that know ones walks in on me… that’s also an awkward moment for me) to make sure everything goes well. A dry run, if you will.
Afterwards, I say a small prayer for each row of chairs in the sanctuary (something I learned from Rev. Cho when I was in seminary) that they will hear the message from God.

But on Sunday morning, as soon as worship starts, the butterflies start setting in. The pressure to “perform” well starts to push my stomach into a smaller and smaller place.

There’s always a prayer that eases a lot of my anxiety. A prayer that always refocuses my thoughts.
“Make me smaller so that you become greater. Let them hear your voice and never mine.”

And I repeat it over and over.
It doesn’t make the nerves go away.
But it does remind me that this isn’t about me or how well or bad I do.
It reminds that even if the sermon doesn’t go the way I want to, God can still use that to do great things.
It’s a good reminder to just get out the way and let God’s Spirit move.
And the pressure to perform goes away. Instead I just know that I need to be faithful.

“Make me smaller so that you become greater. Let them hear your voice and never mine.”
Because it’s never about me.

One Comment on “The Pressure To Perform, and Perform Well

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