In some churches, when the Sunday morning worship service is over, the pastor stands at the back door and shakes everyone’s hand as they leave. Most people typically thank the pastor and tell him how wonderful the sermon was. Personally, I have a hard time with that.
Last week I “preached” twice: once at our community’s high school baccalaureate service and again at all three church services for Graduation Sunday. After each time, people tell me, “Tim, you did a great job!” Sometimes I feel they’re just saying that because they’re not sure how else to start a conversation with me after I was just on stage in front of everyone. Other times I sense that they truly are genuinely thankful for the message. But either way, I’ve found that I really wish I could remove myself from too much praise or criticism right after teaching. In fact, despite wanting to hang around after the baccalaureate service and talk with seniors, I left right away.
My buddy, Tony Myles, wrote something several years ago that has stuck with me. He said:
“I am most vulnerable to criticism right after a sermon, and tend to take [criticism] too deeply in that moment. Likewise, it’s the worst time for me to hear affirmation because then my ego just gets bigger.”
That is so totally true for me. After the baccalaureate I really had to distance myself from all the praise because I was hearing it too much. So I left. Preaching at church last weekend felt somewhat similar. Moments after I finish teaching, I’m way too emotionally attached to the message and vulnerable to really hear anything objectively, whether praise or criticism. I really need about a day to pass before I can respond to feedback with a level head. Otherwise I get too cocky or hurt, depressed, or defensive.
While attending Dallas Theological Seminary, one of my professors, Howard Hendricks, called “sermon praise” the “glorification of the worm.” I am, in fact, a lowly worm, a very inadequate vessel for communicating God’s Word. Anything good that comes as a result of anything I say is solely a work of the Holy Spirit, not me. I’m so thankful that He chooses to work in spite of me, never because of me.
Posted on June 9, 2009