I’m just back from the Festival of Homiletics in San Antonio. It was, without question, a minister nerd-fest. Who else would have a “festival” about “homiletics,” which is just a fancy name for preaching. And yet there we were – 1800 ministers from many denominations across the country, ready for four and a half days of worship, sermons, and lectures. It truly was an event that perhaps only a preacher could love. And it was fabulous a time for learning, inspiration, and renewal.
Let me tell you why worship-leaders enjoy going to worship –
- Someone else chooses the hymns. And if people don’t like them, it isn’t my fault.
- Someone else prepared the bulletin. And if there are mistakes, it wasn’t me.
- Someone else wrote all the litanies, responses, and prayers. All I had to do was show up and soak it all in.
- Someone else preached. I happen to love to preach, but it is a delight to cherish some moments when I’m not responsible for reading the text, grappling with the meaning, studying commentaries, finding instructive illustrations, or coming up with compelling stories.
And perhaps the best thing of all – if something goes wrong (which it did), I can simply sit in my seat and wait for someone else to resolve the issue. So, when all 1800 ministers were eagerly anticipating a PowerPoint presentation and suddenly the screen went black, I could laugh. I could be confident that the team of tech people would rally to rectify the situation – which they did – or that someone else would have to come up with a “Plan B.” There was something very relaxing and gratifying about sitting in the pews and being invited to simply listen and learn.
The conference provided much food for thought. I was immersed in new worship ideas, introduced to new hymns (I think) our congregation will enjoy, heard inspiring sermons, and was challenged to stretch my theology as we wrestled with our ancient texts providing insights for a very modern world. It was a wonderful, educational, inspiring week.
And yet – there was something humbling about listening to one gifted, talented, inspiring preacher after another. It is not easy to hold over 1000 people spellbound, yet I witnessed a number of preachers and professors who managed to do just that. Many of them were available afterwards to sign copies of their recent books. These were teachers and preachers who travel the globe delivering their messages and then return to their mega-churches and over-subscribed classes.
A gnawing, unwanted doubt began to seep in to the congregation primarily made up of small town preachers and pastors shepherding struggling congregations. How, we wondered, could we ever measure up to such greatness?
There is great danger in comparing yourself to anyone else. We tend to romanticize the other’s success and popularity as we diminish our own abilities and service. We mistakenly believe that they “have it all” while we struggle to accomplish anything.
Here’s the conclusion that many of us reached during this conference – God does not call any of us to be famous, popular, or successful. God calls each one of us to be faithful. God calls us to receive and then to share a message of love, forgiveness, and the ability to start over – again and again. And that’s true whether you are a minister, a teacher, an auto-mechanic, stay-at-home parent, or rocket scientist.
We all need an opportunity for a spiritual “tune-up,” a time to be renewed and refreshed. My prayer for each one of us is that we can find ways to feed our spirits – whether it’s at a conference or gazing out of the beauty of God’s creation – and discover again that loving voice that invites us to simply receive God’s love, and then to share it any way we can.