My job is weird.
For the bulk of my job, I spend hours of my week in preparation for a 35-50 minute speech. My subject matter is always the Bible, and I usually spend a good amount of my research time examining the nuances of particular texts. For example, in order to teach from 1 Corinthians 8 last night, I spent time last week researching the worship of the pagan Roman deity Asklepios [a healing god] in order to better understand what the apostle Paul was referencing. Additionally, I always highlight my messages with pop culture tidbits as a means of reinforcing relevancy. The climax of my professional week is the sermon, something which I spend a considerable amount of time crafting each week, only to start all over the following Monday.
One thing I've discovered throughout the past fifteen years of doing this somewhat consistently is that the process is the same. Although I could always be "more prepared"* I make sure to invest hours into this process; I do this so that I never take for granted my role in teaching people the Bible.
What this truly means, is that I try to give my all whether I'm speaking to seven people or seven hundred people.
Echo is still a rather small church. We're blessed to have visitors at least every couple of weeks, but our growth has been rather slow. Sure, since our first year we've tripled in size [ah, how math comes in handy when you're dealing with smaller numbers], but I can tell you pretty accurately what our crowd will look like from week to week. And I know on Monday morning that there won't be hundreds of people busting down the doors of the church to hear what I have to say on Sunday night.
So as I approach my study for the week to come, understanding that few people will notice the fruit of my labor, it wouldn't be surprising if I decided to mail it in. I suppose I could scour the interwebs to get someone else's sermon series. I'm sure there are books a plenty at Family Christian Store that I could steal from use as a template for some messages. Heck, I could go buy the complete set of Nooma's and allow Rob Bell to babysit our church for a few months.
But I could never do that.
Because I absolutely love what I do.
Right now, I'm still engaged in the same wonder that my three year-old is experiencing now for the first time.
For her birthday, Kaelyn's great-grandfather gave her an interesting gift: seeds. Kelly thought it would be educational for the little girl to witness what it is like to watch plants grow. Since she's already seen it on every kid's show available, Kelly figured that Kaelyn should get to observe it first hand.
A few weeks ago she planted the seeds and has watered them every day or so. And absolutely nothing happened. Nothing, that is, until last week. A couple tiny green sprouts began to reach up towards the sky. Saturday, those first sprouts were joined by a few more. And then this morning, quite a few more have emerged, which led Kaelyn to exclaim, "Look at my plants!" And she never would've experienced such joy if she had never planted the seeds.
I want a garden in the city. But I'm still planting seeds and watering.**
Some antagonists might insist that it that wasting hours of my week writing sermons isn't the best way to accomplish this, and I could see their point; understand that preaching is by no means "all" I do. We continue to immerse ourselves in this community. But my theology insists that preaching plays a major role in the transformation of the world. So as I spend hours of my week crafting words and concepts that only few will hear, I'm not discouraged. In fact, I feel as if its importance is gravely underestimated.
I'm not a farmer, aiming for the biggest yield; I'm gardening. What grows will grow.
And I'm so happy.
*One way I am not as prepared as I used to be is that I used to always attempt to go note-less into the pulpit. I could easily memorize my 25-30 messages years ago. But since I've extended the average length of my sermon, and since I desire to more deliberate in making certain observations and pre-crafted sentences, I now preach with notes. Not sure if I'll ever go note-less again.