For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Singles Instead of Homeruns

Most pastors I know are not arrogant men.  Not that some aren’t, but I’m blessed to know many, many men who are godly, humble servants of God.  And yet, even in that humility, deep in our hearts, when we step into the pulpit we have a desire to “knock it out of the park.”  

Now, let me explain that.  I’m not saying that our desire is to so “wow” the crowds with our awesome rhetorical and oratorical skills that they stand and cheer.  I’m not suggesting that our motivation is the excited handshakes after the service.  We’re not called to entertain.

Rather, for me anyway, I want to present God’s Word in such a way that it’s meaningful; that folks lives are touched; that has real impact.  No, we’re not called to entertain, but I really don’t want to bore folks to death, either.

I know I have to be cautious.  I know the power is in the Word, not the messenger.  I posted a little piece some time ago about what to do with boring preachers.  The real impact is Spirit driven, and can happen in the most boring of sermons, while the most entertaining talk can fall spiritually flat.  Still, that doesn’t keep me from wanting to hit those homers.

Of course, any one who is a fan of America’s pastime knows that while we like to highlight the homer, they aren’t nearly as common as we’d like.  The average hitter may knock out 15-20 a season, with the top dogs clobbering 30 or 40.  Sounds like a lot, until you remember how many games there are in a season, and how many times a batter will come to the plate in any given game.  Work out those stats and the best hitters in the league will only hit a home run about 7% of the time.

Carry that over, and I guess I should be happy with homerun sermons once every other month or so.  Doesn’t mean the others will be horrible.  I can still double or triple from time to time.  But the majority will just be your average single.  In fact, a lot of times I might even strike out.

So what do I do with those “singles,” or worse yet, the “strike outs.”  I’m thinking of this because I managed to whiff one just last night.  Our daily readings included the book of Obadiah, and feeling bad for the guy because of years of neglect, I thought I’d pull him from obscurity and shine the light on him for awhile.

Lots of folks don’t know much about Obadiah.  Many might see his little prophecy as being relatively irrelevant.  I jokingly described this book as

Still, I had high hopes.  I really believe we see some amazing things about the nature and character of our God in that brief little book.  But things just didn’t quite go the way I wanted.  I think I might have even bored myself at some points.  But I kept going, and went down swinging.

What do we do with those moments.  We know God’s Word is powerful.  I know the promise of Isaiah 55 which guarantees that as God’s Word goes out it will not return empty but will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent.  But sometimes…

Maybe I just need to be humbled from time to time.  Maybe I need the reminder that I’m no Albert Pujols.  Maybe I’m more like Jose Oquendo (one of my all time favorite Cardinals.  Look him up.)  Maybe it’s not about hitting home runs, but being a team player and contributing in any way I can.  Maybe it’s too late in the year for baseball illustrations. Maybe I need to stop obsessing over all this and just get back to my job of proclaiming God’s Word the best I can.  

As I’ve said before, this blog is more for my catharsis than any expectation that folks are reading.  But if you are reading these ramblings, let me just say this.  If you’re a pastor, and you can relate to this, let me encourage you to keep on swinging.  God is faithful even when we’re not at our very best.  Often it’s the little things that help win a game, not just the big blast.

And if you’re not a pastor, let me urge you to bear with your pastor when he doesn’t knock it out of the park.  As long as he faithfully delivers the Word, God will honor that.  And maybe, once you wake up after that boring sermon, offer him a little encouragement along the way.


Mike said...

I see no shame in wanting to hit homeruns. After all, preaching Gods word is, at the core, public speaking. It just so happens to be the most important public speaking one can do. And public speaking 101 suggests we not bore the audience to death, that we make the topic understandable with interest, thought-provocation, and challenge mixed in. Why should we neglect those simply because it is Gods word? Could it be that the Spirit of God uses public speaking 101 principles to cut into hearts?

Good post!

Kevin Sorensen said...

Scott, thanks for these words. They are an encouragement to a guy who's been at this for 28 years now, 15+ in one place! This is one of the ingredients to longevity, I believe. If you're always thinking 'I gotta hit it outta the park' you're going to find yourself very discouraged, very quickly.

Mike (above commenter): I think we should always strive for our best; I'm just not convinced that this will be an out-of-the-park-home-run each Sunday. My wife has served me 1,000s of meals during our 31+ years of marriage, and quick frankly, I can only remember a handful that stand out. However, I know that had she not served the others, I would have shriveled up and died a long time ago.