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The Task of Teaching

There is an inherent value in being forced back to God’s call and God’s strength as we wrestle with our own lack of capacity every week. I am never more “holy” or aware of my lack of holiness as I am on Saturday night—that’s a good thing.

Here’s the caveat: These introspective posts are talking about the weight of teaching for teachers. The danger in this is that they will primarily be focused on what preachers shouldn’t focus on first: ourselves. Preaching is about God first, others second and us a distant third. There is nothing worse than a teacher vomiting his/her own emotional catharsis on congregants for the sake of the preacher’s own bizarre adulation.

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My friend Josh asked me to write for a few weeks on leading and teaching in the church. I respect Josh, and I lead and teach a church, so I agreed.

We planted Summit Church almost seven years ago. During that time, I have discovered that most ministry challenges are unique to specific stages and seasons of leadership. Challenges either evolve or manifest themselves in new ways, or they disappear and are replaced by new challenges altogether. That wasn’t a huge surprise to me; however, this was—the challenge of preaching every week is unchanging. It is just as delightful, difficult and daunting as it was when we started. It calls for the same amount of time, prayer, study, listening and writing as it did when there were 15 of us. I checked with Pops, who has been at it for the last 35 years, and he said it’s never gotten easier for him. I don’t know whether to be encouraged by that or not.

I hope I have gotten better at every aspect of my job over the course of the last seven years, and I hope to get better over the course of the next seven years. That certainly includes preaching better, but preaching doesn’t necessarily get easier as I get better. Preachers have the unique task of taking the ineffable and making it accessible through spoken word, and I don’t know a person for whom that is easy.

Here is the point of my first post: I have come to regard this static level of difficulty as a gift that constantly calls me to grow. There is an inherent value in being forced back to God’s call and God’s strength as we wrestle with our own lack of capacity every week. I am never more “holy” or aware of my lack of holiness as I am on Saturday night—that’s a good thing.

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Here’s the caveat: These introspective posts are talking about the weight of teaching for teachers. The danger in this is that they will primarily be focused on what preachers shouldn’t focus on first: ourselves. Preaching is about God first, others second and us a distant third. There is nothing worse than a teacher vomiting his/her own emotional catharsis on congregants for the sake of the preacher’s own bizarre adulation. Authenticity and graphic, unhelpful vulnerability are two different things. The preparation process should be a means through which God works in us. By the time we present, it should primarily be about God doing a work in others through us.

What about you? What challenges does teaching on a week-to-week basis present? How have those challenges helped you grow?

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