Editor’s Note: The weekend can be an incredibly distressing time for many pastors to enter into. The desire to spend quality time with family while juggling the pressures of an unfinished sermon can be an exhausting reality. What many pastors need are not more tips on how to prepare better sermons as much as some encouragement to better prepare their hearts to preach the sermon they have. Join Ronnie Martin every Friday for The Preachers Corner, where he offers some words of comfort and stories of hope to help preachers enter the weekend encouraged by the gentle and lowly heart of Jesus.
You’d think it wouldn’t be a big deal by now.
“Hey Ronnie, if you could just record a quick one minute video for such and such a thing that would be great,” they asked. “Yep…on it,” I replied.
Fifty-seven takes (give or take) and one afternoon later, they had their video. And here I was, accepting my award for most frustrated dude in the world
Sometimes, little things become big things, and when it comes to ministry, that may be the truest thing you hear all day next to your daily Bible reading.
So what was it about that 57th take that it made it the “good one?” It was simply that after the 56th take, I decided to pause for a moment to collect my thoughts and give my vast acting skills some time to regroup.
Although pausing is a practice I’ve used countless times over the years, it’s also something I need to remind myself of constantly. But I like to think of pausing as a divine practice, because it’s really the art of waiting, of refusing to become frantic, and of resetting our gaze on the One who told us “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Sometimes in our nerve-wracking rush to complete a sermon on Thursday or Friday, we can forget the divine art of pausing, praying, and slowing down our mental and emotional engines, and taking a minute of silence to listen to what the Spirit might be speaking to us in our stuckness.
Here is a procedure of pausing that has been helpful for me when I’m wound a little tight:
- I Just Stop. Sometimes we go over and over our words and sentences to the point that we’ve lost all sense of clarity and objectivity. Recognize when that is happening and literally…stop.
- I Change My Environment. The old English proverb a change is as good as a rest is incredibly accurate. It does wonders to stand up, go to another room, step outside, take a walk, and get yourself away from the intensity for a spell.
- I Shift My Focus. A short conversation, a mindless task, a quick errand, or a quiet moment of reflections helps shift my focus to something else for a minute. At no point does my mind become superhuman during my study process.
- I Pray Before I Begin Again. The Lord sees you when you are knee deep in a quagmire of Bibles, commentaries, computers and moleskins. He knows what your sermon is lacking, and more importantly, he knows what your soul is lacking in those desperate moments. Pause, and pray. Ask Him for what only He can provide and allow the peculiar peace of Jesus to bring some perspective back to your sermon prep.
A pause helps me to remember that Jesus cares more about me than my sermon.
It helps me to remember that His love for me is more sure than even the sun rising in the morning.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning (Psalm 130: 5-6).