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Preaching Insights from a Roller Coaster
by Brent Neely
I am a young man who is about to go into the ministry of preaching. If you, any of you, are wondering what that is like in today’s world, I will explain. Imagine riding a roller coaster. You’re strapped in, facing forward, and ready to go. You begin to pull forward and you see the giant hill in front of you. The car leans back as you begin the trek up to the top. You’re finally there at the top, and you stay there for an everlasting second, unable to see where the drop leads – and what will come after. Finally you drop, and the exciting part of the roller coaster begins. At this point, you are no longer in control, you’ve got to just pray and hope things go well. Unlike most roller coasters though, this one does not end, it continually goes on and changes all the time. Often times the change comes unexpectedly, so it’s a good idea to make sure you are strapped in tight.
This is how I view preaching, and ministry in general. I will be a seminary student in the Fall, and will be receiving my Bachelor’s in Christian Ministry this Spring. Although I have had preparation for it, the art of preaching is still a roller coaster to me, and likely always will be. At least, I hope it stays that way, as I enjoy most roller coasters and the sensation that comes with them.
Just this past week I preached my fourth sermon ever. It was the first time I had preached to my peers though. This scared me even more than my earlier preaching experiences with congregations. My mouth went dry. It was a big deal to deliver the Word of God to those who study the Word of God. After that sermon, I realized that the members of the church I preach at will also be my peers, they too will be members of the Kingdom of God who study the Word.
I compare preaching and ministry to a roller coaster because, for me, it always begins with the thought, “Do I really want to do this? So many things could wrong.” Then I decide that I will go for it. I begin preparing for the sermon, or task at hand, just like the roller coaster begins it’s ascent. As this is happening, I continually think, “Why did I agree to this?” This fear comes from not wanting to say or do something wrong. All of a sudden it’s Sunday morning and I’m at the point of no return – the crest of the climb.
Excitement, fear, and total loss of control happens. I realize I’m not in control anymore (let’s be honest, I never really was), but rather just along for the ride. The words are no longer my own, but from God to be delivered to His people. Excitement ensues and I no longer understand why I was so nervous and scared, though the fear and nervousness still lingers there.
As a young man, I am slowly beginning to see more and more that preaching is not about the preacher. The preacher is just a tool being used by the Lord to deliver His message to His people. I’ve come to realize it is a blessing and an honor.
As I reflect on this blessing and honor, I realize just how much it entails. The world we live in is a pluralistic world where anything goes. In any given high school, you will find at least ten religions represented, if not more. This fact alone, makes me wonder how my calling of being a preacher today will look, compared to those who were called 30-40 years ago. In many ways, I count it a great blessing to be called in this time, as the roller coaster is a bit more intense, at least from my perspective. At this point in time, the preacher must truly rely fully on the Lord to do His work in and through them, because they absolutely cannot do it alone. People would rather do their own thing. When my parents were growing up, most people were Christian. If they were not Christian, they were at least open to what the Bible had to say; that’s not so much the case anymore. So I guess, maybe, I’m not actually that excited to be a preacher, but rather, am excited to see where this roller coaster takes me, and to see the grace of the Lord at work. The ride is nerve-wracking, but the excitement outweighs it.
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