Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Three Reasons to Leave Your Pastor Alone Just Before He Preaches

There are many things I love about the people of Covenant Church, but one of them is the importance they place on the proclamation of God's Word.  That importance is communicated, among other ways, by the time and space they give me before I preach every Sunday.  I normally arrive at the church about an hour before our first service, and aside from a sound-check, I take that time to go over my message one last time, spend some time in prayer, and focus as best as I can on what I believe God wants to say to His people that week.  The folks at Covenant feel free to interact with me in between and after services, and talk about their problems, ask for prayer, and any manner of other things.  But before that first service, they tend to leave me alone.  I'm grateful for that.

I'm grateful for it because I haven't always been in environments like that.

I have served as pastor of two other churches prior to coming to Covenant, and during my time working for the denomination I served as interim or transitional pastor for eight other congregations.  In a few of those churches, a habit had formed of "rushing" the pastor just before the service started.  Generally speaking, one of two things were on the minds of those who said "Pastor, I need to talk to you now, before the service starts!"

Announcements:  Someone inevitably, and every Sunday, had missed the deadline for the submission for announcements, and wanted me to be sure and remember to mention the softball practice on Tuesday, or the Women's group on Thursday, or the leftover casserole in the fridge that somebody needed to claim before it was thrown out.  (Nope, I didn't make that up.  It actually happened!)

Problems:  The room was too hot--or too cold.  And usually, it was both on the same Sunday according to at least two different people.  The toilet in the men's bathroom is clogged.  Or, someone is really upset "about that thing you brought up last week."

I'm not minimizing the importance of either information, or the problems that people experience (well, not most of them at least).  But before you rush your pastor this coming Sunday with news that the women's group really wants Mrs. Myrtle publicly thanked for today's flowers, you might consider three reasons bothering him right before he preaches is a really bad idea.

1. It Wrecks His Focus.  Any pastor worth his salt takes the proclamation of God's Word seriously.  He wants to get it right because he respects the Bible, he loves God's people, and he knows that, at this moment, the greatest gift he can give the bride of Christ is an accurate, compelling, challenging Word from the living God.  When you approach him with a hand full of other things you want him to suddenly remember to do, his concentration on the Word is broken and his focus goes south, because very few people have the natural ability to mentally balance multiple issues of different content on the fly.  If you want a better sermon, a great way to start getting one is to cease wrecking the focus of the guy who is doing his best to bring it to you every week.

2. It Affects the Church. When the pastor loses his concentration, it affects his delivery, which in turn, also affects the attention span of the church.  This domino effect ends with the people of God not hearing from Him as clearly as they otherwise should have.  In short, when you rush the pastor for your own interests just before he preaches, your whole church family pays for it.

3. It's Just Not that Important.  During the worship hour, the primary aim is for God's people to hear from Him.  Though that happens in many ways, in the Protestant tradition we have contended (rightly, I believe) for the past 500 years that it primarily comes through the proclamation of His Word.  So before you rush the pastor right before the service just ask yourself, "Is this announcement/problem so important that it warrants the possible garbling of God's message to His people?"

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Most every pastor I have known is accessible when he is truly needed.  But when it comes to the pre-service rush with hoards of information to announce and problems to solve, give your pastor a break.  You and your whole church family will be better for it. 

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