Some might wonder what it's like to be a pastor coming into the weekend services. Most people, probably don't care. But for those of you who wonder, I thought I'd let you know what it's like for me. It's Saturday Morning which is the time I go over my message again after my day off on Friday and it still surprises me all the emotions I feel as I embark on another weekend of ministry. This is my 19th year of ministry and the feelings are the same, if anything, they've intensified because the stakes seem higher.
Here are my honest thoughts about getting my message ready for the weekend...
1. I never feel like I've prepared enough no matter how much time I've put in. I always feel like I should have researched more, or found a better analogy, or dug a little deeper to find a better way of saying something.
2. I feel pressure to connect to people who are used to amazing communication and presentation. People in our culture don't know how spoiled they are all the time with seamless transitions and awesome visual and audible genius via television and the internet. So to keep up with the dynamic nature of life in the 21st century can feel nigh to impossible.
3. I feel a tension in my brisket for days leading into the weekend wondering if I really have anything to say that is worth listening to. I wonder if it will be boring and leave people disappointed. My fear is that I'll think it's good and that people will leave thinking, "Did he think that was helpful?" That I could be so close to my craft that I don't have a good sense of whether it's good or not.
4. As the weekend gets closer, I have to fight off dark thoughts...every week. Thoughts like, "People aren't coming this weekend...they have better things to do." "You are getting kinda repetitive and people aren't as interested in what you have to say." "You're going to bomb tonight. Your content is so commonplace." "People are talking about church lately and they think things are getting boring." "You're in over your head...you can't keep this up." It goes on an on...and these are some of the grey thoughts...I don't want to share the black ones.
5. I sometimes feel like my relationship with God isn't where it needs to be to speak for Him. I feel unqualified to stand in His stead and share His Word with people when I feel like I have so far to go. It is worse when I come off a week when I feel like I've struggled with sin or selfishness. A week where I'm burnt out on people's problems and the world's ills. I don't feel like a beacon of hope...instead, I feel like I want to stand up in front and say, "We're losing...sin is winning." I've never done that, but coming into a weekend and living in this world, I feel so overwhelmed with the power of evil.
6. This is crazy, but sometimes I want to get in my car and drive away. I want to just run. I feel so petrified at the paranoia in my mind that I want to get as far away as possible. I feel so scared that there doesn't seem like a better option than running away. I've never done this, but that's a feeling that fills my mind on some Saturdays coming into the weekend. I know...crazy.
7. I feel like my mind is so full of what I've studied, that having conversations or interacting with random things other than my message can be difficult. I feels like I can't do anything or talk about anything until after that last message on Sunday and my brain has been opened up to entertain other thoughts or ideas. The worst is when someone unloads a problem or critique or bit of bad news with me while I'm preparing my mind to share God's Word. I can hardly take it in without it feeling like they've jabbed a needle in the balloon of my heart and deflated my growing energy. It also clouds my thoughts and makes me feel like what I'm going to say isn't where people are actually living. I'll want to change my message.
8. I'll end with this thought...I always feel a desire to change my message about 40 times a week. I'll get done and what felt good on Wed. night will sound stupid and silly on Thursday Morning...I'll tweak it a bit and feel better going into my day off, but on my day off I'll think about the topic and some of the points I'm going to make and they seem detached and distant...like they don't make any sense to me anymore. I stay away from my message on Friday, but on Saturday morning (like this morning), I review my notes and often feel like I want to scrap everything and start over. Whatever I was feeling early in the week seems like a lifetime ago and what I'm feeling today couldn't be further from the content in my message. I have to wrestle with regret and the desire to rework everything. But I can't now, because I've sent it to our tech team and the programming is already being aligned with what I sent them earlier in the week. And so I pray that God reminds me of what he put in my heart early in the week and seek to reconnect with why he put the message on my heart like he did. I ask for His heart to fill me while mine is so undependable and capricious. He is usually good with covering me with his Love...though I don't always feel it.
There are more things...but these are some of the tortures of weekly preparation for weekend messages as a pastor. I love my calling...but I'd be lying to you if I didn't say there are parts of it that I hate with a passion...this weekly gauntlet is one of them.