Monday, November 10, 2008

Unnngh (Post-contio depression)*

*(this non-Latin student's best effort at "post-sermonic depression")

Yesterday I had the great privilege and thrill of bringing the Word at my church. My text for the morning was Galatians 6:14, and the title was "Gospel Edges." I preached it at the 8 and 11 services; then at the 6pm I preached on "The Wisdom of God," largely from Proverbs.

Preaching brings me some of the greatest joy in my life. When I'm preparing for and giving a message, all the dials are lit up. (A little Forbidden Planet imagery, there.)

And so, for yesterday's morning sermon particularly, preparation was a happy challenge. I had to get the exegesis of the passage down, which (for me) wasn't simple. But more, to do it justice, I had to understand Galatians better as a whole. So I had to do a lot of study on each word in the passage, and a lot of study on the syntax; but then I also had to do the whole letter. I read Galatians through 2-3 times in Greek, and then again in several different English translations. I had to study difficult passages I wouldn't even preach on, but which would affect the sermon.

I say "had to," but the God's honest truth is that I got to. It was a joy. I loved it, and very much appreciate my dear wife making it possible for me to disappear into my study.

In addition I thought and thought about the passage, pondered, meditated, prayed. Talked it through aloud as I drove, trying to look at it from various angles.

So then I had this mass of information, and no sermon! That is, I could easily have stood up and rattled on and on, but that's not preaching. A sermon, to be of any use to anyone but the preacher, requires a focus and a structure. God was good to me once again, and a structure fairly readily suggested itself. And, as usual, I fiddled with it until the very last second, printed it, and boom! Sermon.

Then I have the great privilege of standing up and giving it to my brothers and sisters. I can say I gave it everything God gave me, gave it all I had, and then it's between God and them.

Go home, collapse for a (too!) short nap, get up, preach the evening sermon.

And now's the let-down.

Generally speaking, I've always had a let-down after preaching. I've just about always put all my heart into my preaching... but I always am so conscious of my sermons' imperfections, and (far worse!) of my own imperfections and inadequacies, my wrong attitudes and fleshly focuses, my ever-present me-me-me, when all should be Christ-Christ-Christ.

And beyond that, I'm so aware that, unless the Holy Spirit of God chooses to use His Word effectively, it's all just words in the air. My sermons carry no inherent power. So over the decades, I've preached to some folks and it's like throwing cotton-balls at a granite cliff. And when people do respond? You know it's solely because of God's grace in their good-soil hearts.

So there's always been a certain let-down.

But now? Now, it's much, much worse.

Because now, I do all that,and I walk away from the last sermon with nothing on my dance-card. I just did the vocational activity in the category that uses me the most and gives me the most joy... and I've got nothing to look forward to. It may be months before I get to do it again.

I'd had a real hope that I might be pastoring a church in time for my favorite portion of the year (Reformation Day through New Year's). But that did not work out, and nothing is on the horizon.

Instead, I go back to my IT job, asking people to reboot all day, having to learn things that (unlike Galatians) don't really interest me at all. It's a very good, stable job (though if Obama truly prosecutes his War on Success as threatened, it may be driven overseas), and I work with great people. I'm very grateful for it, and it meets my family's needs. But it isn't what I was made for. And so, especially at moments like this, I struggle to have a 1 Corinthians 10:31 attitude towards it.

So, a little glum today. Thank God for my blogs, it does give me an outlet. My dear wife's grateful for them, too — I think because it makes me a little less annoying at home.

But I really do need to be where I get to minister the Word on a regular basis.


Violet said...

I hear what you are saying, having experienced something similar earlier in my life. I went from being a single, "professional", missionary in Hong Kong to "just" an ordinary wife and mom at home in the States for the next thirty years. It's taken me a long time to learn what Oswald Chambers so clearly states in the following excerpt.

"I have to learn that the aim in life is God's, not mine. God is using me from His great personal standpoint, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him, and never say - Lord, this gives me such heart-ache. To talk in that way makes me a clog. When I stop telling God what I want, He can catch me up for what He wants without let or hindrance. He can crumple me up or exalt me, He can do anything He chooses. He simply asks me to have implicit faith in Himself and in His goodness. Self pity is of the devil, if I go off on that line I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world."

The key sentence to me is: "He simply asks me to have implicit faith in Himself and in His goodness." He has gifted you greatly and is using you in ways that fit perfectly into His purpose at this moment. Rest in Him.

threegirldad said...

Always good for some of us more dense "laity" types to be reminded that those who minister the Word aren't supermen who never experience discouragement, depression, bewilderment, etc.

Praying that God will soon see fit to provide you with a church to shepherd...

David said...

I'm praying for you. Be faithful in all things.

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan said...

Ah, walking through the valley.

I had a similar let-down after our preacher's conference ended earlier this year. Heady times, one session after another, eager men called to preach the Gospel pouring in from all over western Canada, and electrifying sessions from first-class speakers. Then, in a flash, it was all over, everyone went home, and it was back to work.


As for your call to pastorship, you know better than I do that God works according to His own timeline. That you haven't been called yet only means that the right church hasn't yet found you. Pray, brother: that's all that He calls us to do at junctures like this.

~Mark said...

*hugs Dan*

Rachael Starke said...

"That is, I could easily have stood up and rattled on and on, but that's not preaching. A sermon, to be of any use to anyone but the preacher, requires a focus and a structure."

Now that's just crazy talk! Sounds like you need to get with the times and start working on your "random thoughts while strolling" gifts, maybe a little more focus on practical living, and a little less focus on, y'know, God and Jesus and stuff.

Um, not.

And just so you know, were you ever to start battling those particular temptations, rest assured there'd be the digital equivalent of a riot that would make Obamabots cower in fear...

I sometimes wonder whether Paul had similar questions as he sat in a jail cell writing his little letters to the church when he wanted to with them, ministering in person...

Not that a cube in the IT department is a jail cell, mind you. No doubt there's free Diet Coke...

bugblaster said...

so anyways dan, if i'm ever asked to line up a preacher, and if you're not busy at the time, and if the aeroplane fares are reasonable, and if you have refrained from overly mocking la fran├žais, and if there is no election happening so that you are calm cool and collected, and if you promise to keep your handgun at home, and if we can keep the human rights police away while you're here, and if my wife doesn't veto it, then please come and preach at us.

DJP said...


Rachael Starke said...

Oh dear.

I just read my previous comment and am really afraid it came across as a strong rebukewhen I mean it as a strong encouragement!

What I was attempting to say was that one of the blessings of this season for us, your little blog brethren, has been the fact that you've been compelled to write more, and write better. I've read some of your earliest writings, and while the content has always been full of the gospel (praise God), the way you deliver it has grown richer and richer with time.

There aren't many churches today looking for a rich and full proclamation of the gospel. But perhaps that is exactly what this new and interesting season in history is about - the return of the church to the life-changing power of the gospel. And then one of those churches will find you. And they will begin receive big, nourishing bowls of gospel truth every week, while your blog brothers and sisters will have to be content with leftovers. And the church, and us, will rejoice. And in the meantime, we'll enjoy it all here ourselves, as much as you'd like to offer up.

That's what I meant to say. :)

Stefan said...

I like how Bugblaster writes up his not-at-all-conditional-nosiree-Bob invitation with "come and preach at us."

bugblaster said...

Hey I mean it. We'd have him here in a moment. If everything came together of course.

One Salient Oversight said...

An elder is sober-minded, self-controlled and not quarrelsome. He must also be well thought of by outsiders.

1 Timothy 3.2-3, 7.

Maybe you're in the right place after all.

CR said...

A real low blow Comrade OSO (I hope people are getting the "comrade" point, look at OSO's profile).

First you try to diss Dan at Pyro, then you try here again at his own blog. You got some nerve.

Rachael Starke said...


You don't agree with Dan about, oh, anything.


You feel that something he has said here disqualifies him to be an elder.


What makes your assessment more qualified than that of the elders of the church where he currently teaches and preaches, and members of his congregation, who both read his writings here, and minister and live alongside him there?

Do you, in all of your wisdom from half a planet away, have some extra spiritual knowledge or insight that they don't??

And if you do, why haven't you shared it with them, instead of with us? Where is the profit, except to your self-superiority?

That's a rhetorical question, by the way. Doesn't require an answer, doesn't invite an answer. It invites an apology.

Puritan Man said...


I know I said it yesterday but it's worth repeating. You did an outstanding job praching yesterday. I only got to hear the first service one because I had to split to go to the Capitol to keep the peace for all those whose "fundamental right" to marry someone of the same sex was stripped away last week by all of us Christian Nazis and haters.

So it was an encouraging note to be sent off on. Thanks again brother. May God find you a permanent outlet soon.

Gilbert said...

I find it very peculiar that OSO claims Dan is mean, nasty, whatever, and has yet to display Biblical wisdom, and even fails his own test he throws out at Dan!

Yeesh. Dude, I don't agree with Dan about some things. But the things you have said here are not Biblical, and you have said nothing to back it up. Dan is well thought of...except by a few who apparently need to read the Word more, and learn the meaning of "Grace" when he is wrong.

Different topic...

Dan, I preached for the first time on Sunday at a small church in a community that you "don't blink" or you drive through it. James 3:1 haunted me as the 15 or so people I preached to heard it. If you care, I'll link to it. James 3:1 haunted me...I had to get it right by the grace and power of God! I am clueless at Greek, and that and your research skills God has given you makes you light years wayyy ahead of me in my maturity in the faith. But I prayed for God to speak (and my voice was unusually clear that morning; I'm not a morning person, to say the least!).
I felt His power, even in that small church, and despite my weaknesses. Our Father is AWESOME!

Reboot THAT, satan!

Gilbert said...

On topic? Oh yeah, that's what the meta sez I'm supposed to be...

Added to my prayer list that God would make a path for you to be a pastor at a church...assuming, however, that you would be willing to move anywhere in the world as God leads you. Done.

Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras said...

I can't wait until it's downloaded so I can have the privilege of listening to it. Ahh the joys of technology!

candy said...

OSO. So I take it that you are not an elder anywhere.

DJP said...

fwiw, "Puritan Man," above, is one of the elders in my church.

Pastor Michael said...


FWIW, from what I read I think you'd make a fine pastor; indeed, as I've remarked before, I belive you already have a pastoral role through your writing here and at Team Pyro.

That said, you obviously have fire in your bones (duh, you're a pyromaniac) for preaching in particular--and you don't need a church to do that. Whitefield became famous preaching outdoors.

Perhaps you could go down to where the homeless hang out in your area or to a park, or circulate your name to area churches that you're willing to fill in while the pastor's away. (Hint: If you happen to be in Virginia, our church needs a preacher when I travel with a team to the Dominican Republic in January!)

As a last resort, you could preach to your family, record the results and post them in the sidebar here.

I hope you don't take these comments as demeaning in any way--I do wish to encourage you--get those sermons out from inside your bones!

threegirldad said...

~mark wrote:
*hugs dan*

Uh-oh. Better hope Tom Chantry doesn't see that.


Tim Curtis said...

Hi Dan,

I was privileged to receive the message that you preached on Sunday. I think that you hit the ball out of the park. I also have had the privilege of preaching, and feel called to do so, and I can say without a doubt, I feel your pain, I have the burn in my heart too.

I know the feeling that comes from putting everything that you have into your sermon, not leaving any stone unturned, and then checking again to see what else God will reveal to you, and the energy you feel when the time comes to deliver the word. I also know that spent feeling, when you have given it everything that you have, and then some, hoping and praying all the time that you have said the right thing, hoping that you did not make a mistake.

I know also that the most important thing you can think of is pleasing God, and not the people that you are preaching to.

You are on the right track, and you are a blessing to your church. Keep it up, and God will reveal His plan to you, in His time frame, even though we would hasten His will just a little bit.

I count myself privileged to have been there on Sunday, I hope and pray that soon your dream will come true, you are and will be a blessing to those you shepherd.

Tim Curtis