It’s Sunday night. The kids are in bed, the lights are low, and all across America, pastors are doing what pastors do on Sunday nights – reflecting on their Sunday morning.
Some of you had a stellar Sunday. This was the sort of day you dreamed about in Bible College. Your volunteers all showed up. The weather was warm enough to allow the elderly to attend but cool enough to discourage the others from going to the lake. The seats were filled, souls were saved, the Gospel was preached and the new girl who sang the offertory even hit the high notes. You left the church this afternoon with a light heart, confident of your calling and relatively certain your paycheck would not bounce. It was a good day to be in the ministry.
Some of you…well, Monday will be a day of licking your wounds. The seats were not filled. Souls were not saved. The Gospel was preached, but you made the mistake of asking your wife how the sermon was, and because she fears God, she answered you truthfully, which was not pleasant. After the long, icy ride home, you sat in silence over lunch. Too keyed up to take your Sunday afternoon nap, you made the mistake of checking your email, only to find a note from one of the saints who told you that they’re going to be transferring their membership elsewhere because – although they love you dearly – they feel they’re not getting fed. You resist the temptation to reply with a comment about not seeing them at the trough very often. You’re wondering how long you can do this. You’re thinking thoughts that I once heard from a mentor of mine, Steve Sjogren, “There have got to be more lucrative ways to be miserable.”
Truthfully, most of you had days somewhere between those two extremes. You’ve had better, but you also know you’ve had worse. Interestingly, no matter where you were on that spectrum today, there is a truth that applies universally…
Today’s performance does not determine your worth to God or the people.
Pastors notoriously attached too much importance on single sermons or services. They’ve bought into a lie that I heard long ago while attending a conference for church planters. An up and coming church planting guru ominously told us “In today’s world, you’re only as good as your last sermon series.”. I left the conference early…not because I was convinced he was wrong (I became convinced of that later), but because I couldn’t hack the pressure. I’m a preacher, not a heavyweight champion prize fighter. I cannot be expected to score a knock out every time I get in the ring.
Friends, today is a horrible day to reflect on your sermon. Don’t touch the recording of today’s message until Thursday…then listen to it. You’re probably find that it wasn’t nearly as bad (or as good!) as you think it was! What does this mean? You cannot judge your value as a person before God or as a shepherd by your performance in the pulpit, particularly one performance reviewd by a biased audience on the ride home from the service or a member who was hostile to you when they arrived at the service.
You have far more value to God than you possibly could have proven during this morning’s sermon, and your care for His people over time – coupled with your value for preaching the Gospel – is what earns you the office of a pastor. You can’t blow that equity in one morning any more than you can earn it in one morning.
Rest easy, pastor. You will surely live to preach another day.