When I was about 14, I was at a church camp and there was a preacher who was preaching out of Philippians 3 … it says this:
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ, for whose sake I have lost all things…”
He asked the question “what is the all-consuming passion of your life?”
I remember watching the way that he spoke… there was nothing outwardly impressive about this guy. He was an older dude who didn’t wear cool clothes or have tattoos or anything like that. There was nothing about him outwardly that made you look at him and think that he could even speak the same language as all the teens that were at this camp, but there was something about the way this guy talked that awakened something in me.
I remember walking outside of the assembly hall in which we had met and I remember looking up at the stars in the Colorado night sky and raising the white flag of surrender in my heart. That night, for lack of a better way of explaining it, I knew that I wanted to do what that guy did… I wanted to be a preacher… I wanted to talk in a way that lifted people’s spirits, that joyfully announced hope to people sitting in darkness. I wanted to know the Jesus that this guy knew…and speak of Him with the passion and commitment that this guy had.
In high school that desire grew. I began to take some risks. I spoke at Younglife, at FCA, at various events, eventually at my high school graduation in front of 7000 people. In college I began to travel to different churches around Kansas and preach to small congregations in middle-of-nowhere Kansas. It energized me. It awakened me. It motivated me.
I wanted nothing more than to be a great preacher. I read all the books. I interviewed all the greats. I traveled to preaching conferences by myself in Missouri and Indiana, when I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. I listened to audio tapes of great preachers constantly in my car. It had become my pursuit…
Then one day an old-timer whom I had sought for wisdom, guidance, and mentoring said something to me that totally changed my perspective on preaching… he asked me this question:
“Is the pulpit calling you to the sermon, or is the sermon calling you to the pulpit?”
I came to a realization that I was more enamored with the stage than I was with the message… that I would rather talk about Jesus in front of people than know him personally…
Its a question that’s haunted me ever since.
In junior high, I wanted to be a preacher.
In high school, I wanted to be a good preacher.
In college, I wanted to be a great preacher.
Just out of college, in my first ministry job, I wanted to be better than anyone else at preaching.
I sense a shift inside me. I still want to be a preacher. But I want to be a follower of Jesus first. I want to know Him firsthand. I want his words and his message and his life burning so brightly inside of me that I cannot help but to speak those words to others.
What about you?
Do you HAVE to say something? Or do you HAVE SOMETHING to say? This world is filled with too many people who are living lives that they never chose for themselves, and championing messages that they themselves don’t actually believe.
Are you in the job you’re in because you ACTUALLY BELIEVE in what you’re doing, or are you in it for a paycheck? For prestige? For status?
I want to be like George Whitefield… the famous preacher from the Great Awakening of America. Thomas Jefferson would get ridiculed by his friends for going regularly to hear Whitefield preach. “You don’t actually believe what that guy is saying so why do you go listen?” Jefferson would reply “you’re right, I don’t believe what he’s saying, but HE DOES.”
I want to live my life in search of a story worth telling, a message worth hearing, and a gospel worth believing. I want to preach with actions first, and words second.
Stages are seductive. They carry with them the illusion of health, success, and progress, when in reality it is something that ought to be earned… ought to be stewarded faithfully … ought to be accepted reluctantly and with humility…
Is the pulpit calling you to the sermon? Or is the sermon calling you to the pulpit?