Since we are in the midst of packing up and leaving the US to return to the UK (we being a family of seven!), I have decided to re-post an expanded piece from almost five years ago. Apologies if you’ve recently read through the whole site, but I suspect most people haven’t joined you in this quest!
Somebody said that preaching is the sweetest agony. It is sweet when lives are changed. And it is agony all the rest of the time!
There is nothing as rewarding as seeing lives changed. Sometimes this can occur through a one-off sermon. Typically it occurs over the long haul. Sometimes it is hard to measure. Sometimes you receive a note that overtly expresses gratitude for the change that has occurred. Often you hear nothing.
Since preaching is often more agony than sweetness, it is a good idea to keep some reminders of the sweetness of lives changed. A drawer where those periodic notes or letters are dropped in, then sit there awaiting a time when you need a reminder of the sweetness of the preaching ministry. A folder in your email entitled “Encouragements” that you can go back to when the inbox is overwhelming and discouraging.
I have written before of how we shouldn’t be overly encouraged by post-sermon politeness, but we should take note of feedback that comes after some time has passed. After a sermon, people will usually be polite, and sometimes their politeness can stretch your confidence in their credibility! I’ve seen genuinely poor preachers pressing on in the face of polite comments, as though these words are the very affirmation of gifting for which they had prayed. But when someone comes to you months later with meaningful follow-up to a message, do take note.
In fact, make a note and stick it in your encouragements drawer. There will be a time when you need it!
Tomorrow I’ll probe some of the other sweetnesses of the preaching ministry.