This month, we asked our bloggers what it’s like to be the youngest Presbyterian in the room. Here’s what they shared.
Preaching is a humbling experience.
Every Sunday when I approach the pulpit, I am ever so aware of the weight of what I am about to do. The audacity we preacher-types have is ridiculous if you stop to think about it. We dare to approach God and God’s Word each week seeking God’s message for God’s people in that particular time and place. We all say we trust the Spirit to make all this possible, but we have all signed contracts guaranteeing that it will all be done regardless. The relentless return of the “Sabbath” comes and a sermon is due no matter how full your past seven days have been. Some weeks I enjoy preaching. Some weeks I struggle. But every week, preaching is a humbling experience.
I remember one particular Sunday, when the act of preaching became an especially humbling task for me.
In my current congregation, we have two services – 8:45 and 11:00. The sermon is the same at both of them (the delivery is usually a little less rough at the second though). The early service is a smaller, more intimate assembling of God’s people and it does not include all the same elements as the second worship service. At the early service, there is no “time with the younger church” for the kids to come forward. There is also no Sanctuary Choir singing from the balcony in the back to help uplift and support us. For these reasons and for the simple fact that it begins at 8:45 in the morning, it tends to be the same people week-to-week without much variance.
One morning at the early service – when I was only a few weeks into my new call – as I was about to go into the pulpit yet again with my sermon in hand, I had a sudden realization: I was the youngest person in the room.
On this one particular Sunday, the act of preaching became an especially humbling task for me. I looked out into the pews and into the faces of those God had assembled together with me that week, and I was overwhelmingly humbled. I had not been there long, but I had gotten to know many of them over coffee, at meals and in their homes. I was humbled by their sense of community. I was humbled by their life-experience. I was humbled by the depth of their spiritual wisdom. I was humbled that they simply allowed me to be with them, let alone serve as their pastor. And I was once again humbled by the sheer magnitude of what I was about to do as the youngest person in the room – preach.
Now, I know that preaching is not about us. I know that preachers are supposed to do their best to get out of the way of their own preaching in order to let God’s Word shine through. But on that day I was made very aware of that fact that I am still a scared little boy attempting to do something audacious before an assembly of Christians more practiced than myself – preach.
I still preach most Sundays at the early service. I am still often the youngest person in the room when I do so. And while I have still not wrapped my mind completely around this, I have made peace with it for the most part and found some comfort in some holy words.
So in case you are also a young preacher-type and I have just inadvertently given you another self-awareness to be self-conscious about, let me share with those words so that you too might have some comfort:
“Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:12-16)
BRIAN CHRISTOPHER COULTER is a husband, father, pastor, author, blogger and pingpong champion who is pretty good at sidewalk chalk and currently resides in Aiken, South Carolina.