Confession #1: Loving Sermons More than Jesus and People

I’ve preached a lot of sermons, more than I can count.

For much of my years teaching people about God, I’ve made it about performance and about the Sunday sermon, and not about Jesus. At times I’ve loved the thrill of sermon preparation and delivery more than I’ve loved Jesus, or the people he called me to serve. Often the majority of my prayers were for God to help me and empower me on Sunday, while spending time with God’s was largely nonexistent, and while I didn’t make time to pray for God’s people.

It’s far too easy to think that pastoring has to do with running a show when in reality, “The pastor is a Christian more than a person performing a role, a task, a sermon.”[1]  As a leader, loving Jesus has to do with learning to value God more and more while learning to value one’s performance and image less and less. (Easier said than done…). For much of my years of preaching I didn’t read Scripture joyfully but did so with a sermon deadline in mind. I shudder to think that I used God, and used his gift we call “the Bible” as a means to an end. I was the older brother in the parable of the lost son(s) who constantly worked for his father but never was content with being with his father.

In elaborating on the apostle Paul, Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson write, “As pastors under the authority of Scripture, it is important for us to acquire [Paul’s outlook on Scripture]…so that we don’t use it as a source book for quotations or proofs or applications, so that we enter it as a world of revelation.”[2]  It’s been a difficult transition for me as I learn to let go of viewing the Bible as a specimen to study, and as I relearn the mystery of clinging or cleaving to God, and treating this as “the first step in the pastoral life”.[3] On my worst days of preaching (of which there were many) I was not on fire for Jesus but on fire to deliver a powerful performance; I wasn’t in love with Jesus but in love with the thrill. I was preoccupied with my image and not with Jesus or his Bride. Of what we know of the apostle Paul, his sermon delivery could have used a lot of work. And yet from what we know, the apostle was in love with 1), Jesus, and 2), people, not with his image or the sound of his voice. He wasn’t consumed with delivering powerful messages or spot-on sermon deliveries, or even powerful letters! He loved Jesus and the Church to death.

[1] Scot McKnight, Pastor Paul, p. 11.

[2] Marva Dawn & Eugene Peterson, Unnecessary Pastor, p. 66.

[3] Scot McKnight, Pastor Paul, p. 12.