Friday, July 29, 2011

"That was a pile of crap" - a note to preachers/teachers

Every teacher or preacher has that moment when they feel like they didn't do a good job. It doesn't matter if you are just starting out or have been speaking for years - that one Sunday, that one class, that one group will come.  It will be over and you'll feel like you need to apologize to someone.

For me this day came a few weeks ago. An intro to a talk I had come up with didn't go as smooth as had planned, I was getting lost in my notes, and just felt like things weren't flowing very well.

We got in the car after church and I said to Jeannette, "Well, that was a big pile of crap."

She was very consoling, telling me I'm too hard on myself, that it was fine and all of that.  But, I wasn't convinced.  

While mentally blowing up balloons for my pity party, God intervened by bringing a thought to my heart: when you think your delivery was a pile of crap, I can use it as fertilizer.

God doesn't waste anything. And that includes our poor teaching/preaching deliveries. Here are some of things He can grow with that fertilizer:

When we stand in front of people to teach or preach, it's not about us. Everyone would agree with that, but we still need to be reminded sometimes. Fertilizer moments provide clear reminders. 

They remind us that we aren't as good as we think we are.
They remind us that we can't lean on our talents.
They remind us that people shouldn't be coming to hear us, they are coming to hear God.

The old cliche says, "The bigger they are the harder they fall." This is true for the heads of prideful communicators. Having a bad day gives a reality check.

Nothing works as well as a less than stellar job of communicating to convince us we need to prep better. Only spend a little bit of time putting things together and you're pretty much guaranteed a disaster. Teaching/preaching requires hard work. It is not an easy thing to craft a message. A person might say, "I'm just going to show up and trust the Holy Spirit to speak through me." This isn't being spiritual, this is showing how lazy you are.  

Everyone is different, but on average I need about 8-10 hours of solid time to get a message manuscript (3-4pages) where it needs to be. That means blocking off time, removing distractions, and saying no to some things during the week so as to be ready to go on Sunday. Saturday night specials will happen, but they shouldn't be the norm. Having a lousy Sunday or two will make that pretty clear.

Just because we did a bad job doesn't mean that God is going to. It doesn't matter how bad of a job we do, He can use it. We might not have any idea how He possibly could, but that just means we've given Him a chance to show off.  The fertilizer we've provided can be used to encourage, teach, convict, equip or anything else He wants to do. Read Isaiah 55:10-11:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 

He will always do a good job. He will always use the Word He has written to speak to the hearts of those He has created and loves. Not even one of our poor performances can stop this. This should be an encouragement to the teacher/preacher. We tell people from the pulpit that God is always with them, they are never alone. This is equally true for us while in the pulpit and once we step out of it. He will be  with you through every word of the message; how good or poor you did will never change His love for you.

So you had a bad day (song plays in back ground). 

Don't beat yourself up too bad. Don't give up. Don't write the resignation letter. Don't say, "I'm never going to speak again!" 

Learn from it. Grow from it. Be better because of it.
Keep on preaching and teaching!

1 comment:

Toni Ruppert said...

Thank you for this post. It was good to hear you say that God can take our crap and make fertilizer. As a teacher to young people, I must always remember to plan with humility. For the times when it still turns out like bad -- like rotten paper mache--you have given me something to remember.