Pulpit and Pew (Installment 28)

My wife and I recently enjoyed several days in Dallas, visiting our good friends Joy and Elliott Gonzalez. Let’s be honest, besides time with them, it was all about the food. I’ll spare you the details so you don’t spoil your dinner. One evening after dinner and before visiting this amazing place that features homemade pies, we walked around this cool part of town called Bishop Arts District. There were lots of boutique shops, including one specializing in men’s hats. Not ball caps and such, but nice men’s hats, fedoras and straw ones in particular. Elliott and I ducked inside while our wives watched through the window. I felt like a clown as the owner had me try on a sporty number. That feeling was confirmed by the wives as well. Then the shop owner blew me away with a comment we would repeat amongst ourselves the rest of the trip, albeit mostly as a private joke. “It’s all about the confidence.” The owner promised us it only looks foolish on those lacking the confidence to pull it off. I thought he was pulling my leg, but now I realize the truth of his observation, because no matter how much ridicule I endure for wearing brightly colored socks these days, I never flinch. I feel confident in bright orange socks, but not so much with men’s hats.

My Texas experience got me to thinking about preaching, and the need for confidence. And it’s not just beginning preachers who often quake in their ministerial robes early on Sunday mornings. All preachers know what it is to wonder every week what they’ve gotten themselves into, proclaiming the gospel Sunday after Sunday, daring to say something akin to, “Thus says the Lord.” Not many of us would claim our words should be equated with God’s, but we do believe (or should anyway) that God uses our words. Still, we’re scared sometimes, maybe most times.

If you Google the word “confidence,” one of the primary definitions that pops up reads, “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” Wrong! That might be one definition, but it’s not a theological one in the least. The Latin from which the term comes means “with faith.” And as Christians know full-well, our confidence is in God, not ourselves. Moses wasn’t called by God for his training with Toastmasters, and the same for those women commissioned at an empty tomb on the first Easter. They didn’t tell the heavenly messenger, “Oh, no problem sharing the gospel. We had a speech class in junior college and it’s not that hard.” Wrong!

For preachers, whatever confidence we have comes from remembering God’s call upon our lives. Yes, we will work our buns off Monday through Saturday on the way to Sunday’s pulpit; but it is God’s promise to be with us that grants us a measure of confidence, even enthusiasm. That last word, by the way, comes from the Greek, meaning “in God.” May it be so.

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One thought on “Pulpit and Pew (Installment 28)

  1. Your words really hit home as I think about my first Sunday in my new church just two weeks ago. The congregation is much bigger than my previous appointment. I had never felt so nervous as the Saturday before. I prepare as much as I can Monday through Saturday, but as you say there needs to be a measure of confidence in one’s calling, ability, experience, and faith. I have done my part, the rest I leave to God and it will be what it will be. The amazing thing, and this I attribute to God, was that once I stood up to address the congregation, the anxiety went away.

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