Lent: Day Thirty-one

My wife has noticed that it appears that I have been withdrawing and she asked me about it. I told her it was not so much withdrawal but focus along with an escalating tenseness as I prepare for my conference presentation. I will be getting up in front of several hundred people who all expect me to justify my top-rated speaker standing and give them needed pearls of wisdom to make their job easier, in an area most of them dislike intensely, indexing.

That is the curse of success; everybody expects the same or better every time. You always have to be “on your game.” I don’t know how small church pastors do it, always having to do the preaching and teaching, always having to meet the sometimes impossibly high expectations. No wonder so many of them don’t get any sleep on Saturday nights and burn out after a few years.

When I sign up to do these things I feel like they are lucky to get me. As the day approaches I begin to feel like I don’t know anything and I am going to be a big disappointment.

I have preached, taught Sunday school, Bible studies, men groups, and retreats. I have done technical training, group master classes, and conference presentations before fifteen to fifteen hundred. Preaching and presentations are my Waterloos. Both carry high expectations from those listening, especially if you have a reputation or have done well before. Both depend on more than your material, being a good example of the medium (your act of presenting) being a large part of the message as well as your ability to connect with your hearers.

I always go off-script and it is always in response to the listeners (I hesitate to say audience since that sounds pejorative in a sermon). You try to develop a rapport with those to whom you are speaking, to see where they are having problems following what you are saying, as well as identifying what sparks their interest so you can build on it. That is easier to do with a technical subject where you have numerous tricks and tips everyone wants to get a handle on. Preaching is another matter. It carries the weight of speaking for God and often requires making difficult demands. Sometimes, when you actually do a bang up job, it cuts to the bone and people can be hurt. Very little compassion is needed to present an indexing tip.

At least I am speaking on the first session Monday afternoon, so I can relax for the rest of the conference and at the events Monday and Tuesday night. That way my wife and daughter can get the attention they deserve. Small blessings are always appreciated.

Remember us as we travel on Friday and Wednesday. I am looking forward to what God has for me on this trip, especially since Lent has been and will be central to its timeframe.

God’s grace and the peace of Christ be with you.

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