February 2022 Connection

Nervous While Preaching

While I was in seminary, I took a number of classes in homiletics, which focuses on the practice and ministry of preaching. One of my instructors was a pastor and preacher I greatly admire, Rev. Patrick Clayborn, who now pastors at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland – the first AME congregation, started by Richard Allen in 1785. I share that, not to lift myself up, but rather to give you a sense of the caliber of preacher Rev. Clayborn is. To say the least, I hung on his every word and instruction. I’ll never forget one evening’s class when he told us, “If you’re not nervous when you preach, then you’re not fully aware of what it is you’re doing.”
I’ve remembered this for years now, and I think about it regularly. His point was not to say that pastors ought to be trembling in their robes every time they preach, but rather that preaching is more than just giving a speech. It’s about sharing a reflection on the scriptures, and trusting – believing – that, if we are open to it, God will desire to speak through us. It’s also not to say that every word of every sermon
is gold! But at times, God can be revealed through the words of a prayerful and thoughtful sermon.
You see, if a preacher is aware of what they’re doing, nerves must enter into the equation. And so, when people ask if I’m nervous when I preach, my answer is yes. After years of doing it, the nerves don’t come out in shaking hands, necessarily, but rather in a focus on speaking more than just what’s on my mind,
but also what’s on my heart.
All of that said, my purpose of this article is to say “thank you!” When I started preaching on a weekly basis about 10 years ago, I quickly learned that it was something that I loved to do, and an aspect of my ministry in which I wanted to grow. I have fun when I preach! I enjoy laughing when I preach. I try to be
vulnerable when I preach. My hope is always to connect with others when I preach. But, ultimately, I pray that I am reflecting the love, grace, forgiveness, and good news of Christ.
So, now for the thanksgiving.
One particular gift of this congregation that I have been astounded by is your willingness to provide encouraging feedback to this preacher. I have lost count of the phone calls, emails, letters, and cards that I’ve received from so many of you remarking on one sermon or another. I also find it particularly touching when you share with me how a sermon connected with you. Again, none of this is to say that
I think every sermon I give is worthy of awards, let alone mention, but I hope that at least a few of them hit home.
I am forever grateful for your encouragement, for your reminders that my preaching matters in your lives and in the life of this church. I am thankful that I continue to have opportunities to learn new approaches to preaching and scripture interpretation, and I look forward to doing all of that along with you!
Nervous while preaching,
Pastor Brian
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