One of the biggest things I had to get adjusted to in my new appointment was preaching on a weekly basis.
In seminary and 2 years in Hawaii (post-seminary), I did preach weekly. But from 2008 – June 2012, I preached about once a month.
During those 4 years, I know those sermons were above average. I don't mean that in an arrogant or prideful way. But, since I had a month to prepare for those messages, those sermons had better be, at the least, good. I had a month to let the sermon sit, boil and stew in my head and heart. I had a month to let the scripture take root in my thoughts. A month to think about illustrations. A month to research. So, yea. It better have been good.
And it was nice preaching once a month. It made me look like a better preacher than I really am.
Nowadays, on Monday morning, I wake up with the preacher's hangover and head into the office, open my Bible and realize, oh, I have another sermon to prepare for.
Now, we preachers know if we did a great job or if we completely missed the mark. It sets a tone for the rest of the Sunday, and quite often, rest of the upcoming week.
There have been days when I leave church thinking, “man, I need to make up for this one” and wish that there was one more service to re-preach that sermon. There are days when I leave church with a sigh of relief, and quite honestly, satisfaction of knowing, “Today, I didn't screw up.”
The church folks, bless their hearts, are (and always have been) encouraging and supportive. There are days I know I didn't do so well, yet they say “What a wonderful sermon that was.” Now, I don't know if they're saying it to be nice, or if they mean it, but it doesn't matter, because I know in my heart that it wasn't my best and would love to do a mulligan.
There are lots of reasons why sermons fall flat on Sunday morning, and it doesn't always have to do with the amount of preparation. Sometimes, you can prepare too much for a sermon. Sometimes, the pressure and adrenaline of not being prepared makes it better (we refer to that as the Spirit taking over). Sometimes, we're thrown off our game because right before worship starts, someone says something idiotic to you or shares some sort of news with you or whatever they say, it just throws us off a bit.
Sometimes, the congregation seems tired and worn out, and their lack of energy becomes contagious, and the room feels… heavy and you feel everyone's weight on your shoulder.
Sometimes, it just wasn't the time for that particular sermon.
While I want nothing more than to have every sermon be a smashing grand slam — that's not always going to be the case, and in no way is that an excuse to slack off or not give it my best. What we need to aim for is consistency– that we are consistently good in our preaching. In a baseball analogy, that we aim to at least get on first base every time we step up to the plate. In football, that we aim to consistently get first downs without turnovers–not every pass has to be a touchdown bomb. In basketball, that we aim to shoot at a high percentage from the field–not every shot can be a miracle half-court buzzer beater. In soccer, — okay I ran out of sports analogies.
There have been days where I just want to crawl into a cave and be away from any and all living things in the world after a Sunday and of course, there have been days where I feel like I'm kicking it with God on cloud 9.
No matter how good we are at something, we're always going to have off days. Everyone has off days. But again, that's not an excuse to keep having off days, but a graceful and gracious reminder: we have next Sunday to improve a bit from the previous Sunday.
We don't let failure go to our hearts, and we shouldn't let success go to our heads.
And, really, it's never about us. It's about God and what God is doing and saying through us.
So whether we preached the heck out of that sermon or we left a lot to be desired for — we shouldn't under estimate the power of God's words spoken through us. At the end of the day, we're just the mouth piece – or as someone said, God once spoke to Balaam through an ass and has been speaking through asses ever since.