Since the Bengals don't play until tonight [gotta beat the Colts, Marvin] there is nothing to Monday morning quarterback about. So, instead, I'll make it personal and critique my Sunday teaching performance. While I've been preaching for almost twenty years now [delivered my first sermon at the age of twelve] this past year at Echo has been my first prolonged week-to-week preaching experience; I had stints where I preached for a few months in a row, but never consistently over a year. I'm not really feeling the pressure of coming up with new material each Sunday as I can almost always find something to run with. I do, however, get lower when I bomb now than when I used to when I just occasionally preached. It probably has less to do about my subject matter or style and more about where we're at as a church.
Despite trusting God to take care of Echo, I feel like a lot of our "success" comes down to me. If my preaching sucks then we don't have much of a chance; the reality is there's not that much else going on around here to offer people. So each week I try to prepare something that's relevant, Biblically deep, and engaging. I try not to suck. But sometimes, despite my best efforts, it just doesn't work out.
Last night, as we continued examining different aspects of the Christmas story, I wanted to illustrate the role of Herod in the birth narrative. We have many extra-Biblical references to Herod that usually aren't discussed around Christmas time. As you put Herod's paranoid, self-serving persona against that of Jesus, you get a very different idea of what it means to be a King. Sounded like a good idea, I just don't think I made it work. I got bogged down in the facts and don't think I was able to make them "come alive." I also taught much shorter than I usually do, which is indicative of me not feeling a good flow. Fortunately I didn't try to make-up for it on the spot and strech it to cover the space. It was what it was and that was the best I could do.
It's tough to walk out of the pulpit feeling like you just laid an egg. Like a bad athletic performance, you're left to dwell on it and relive it over and over in your mind. But then you realize that you can pick yourself up and do it all over again next week. If you dwell on it too long, it can really start to mess with your mind, so I give myself Monday morning until lunch to get over it; I'm almost there now.
A couple additional thoughts:
First, I just love the chance to try something out. Some preachers are fearful of failing so they refuse to take risks in their teaching. Echo affords me a great luxury: the opportunity to experiment and not sweat it if I fail. I tried to pull off something different last night and it didn't flow well. That's cool. I'm all the more wiser this morning.
And I do need to share this interesting tidbit: sometimes when I feel like I've bombed with my preaching people get something out of it. So while I beat myself up for sucking, someone claims that something I said really clicked with them. It's absolutely maddening, but it once again proves that this whole preaching thing is more than just my capabilities.
God is good. And my job is to tell people about that.
That'll take away the Monday morning blues.