Sometimes preaching can be like Halloween. It can be a very frightening experience. Consider how many neighbors come to worship dressed as “church people,” many wearing masks to hide their real feelings. When you factor in all the people who promised to “be there in spirit,” church can be a pretty spooky place. Even the Pastor, often, wears a costume. It might be the coat and tie of past pulpiteers, or shirtsleeves and skinny jeans of a post-modern “communicator.” Either way, he’s dressed for the occassion.
The sermon itself can be a scary proposition.The preacher’s wife is scared that her husband will be misunderstood, or she embarrassed in some way. The preacher’s children are terrified they may become the main attraction in their father’s illustrations. Guests are afraid they will be singled out or feel left out, and the congregation must be scared of something. Why else would they huddle for safety in the back of the sanctuary. But, the most frightened of all is the preacher himself.
The preacher stands before an expectant gathering scared that he will misrepresent or miscommunicate the precious word of God. Worse, he fears that the Spirit of God will not show up to animate the dry bones in the pews. Real, too, is the fear of unleashing a disembodied sermon to wander aimlessly for 45 minutes, or the appearance of a fleshless skeleton of a message that speaks more about work ethic than the exposited Word. The preacher is often haunted by the undead apparitions of sermons past, never quite alive, but unwilling to vacate his tortured consciousness. The preacher knows too well that what is pieced together in the laboratory of his study can take on a life of its own in the pulpit. Loosed from theological restraints, or unteathered by grace or compassion, a sermon can run rampant and out of control, leaving a trail of confusion and mayhem. Monday could find deacons or elders at his office door, carrying torches and pitchforks, demanding the end of the three point monstrosities the preacher harbors in his filing cabinets.
But fear is no match for faith, and it is faithfulness that drives the preacher to dispense healthy offerings from God’s Word and to transform the scary into the sacred. It is faith in God and faithfulness to their calling that helps preachers get past the fear and experience the hallowed in the preaching event. “Call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you…For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:5,6).