“The hazards of praising preachers”
Halvor and Helga give some money to Luther Seminary every year. Halvor ex-plained, “It ain’t much, so we were kinda surprised when we got an invitation to a welcoming party for the new president. I don’t care much for stuff like that, but Helga kept bugging me, so we went.”
Said Halvor, “I figured so long as I could drive to the Seminary during the day and be home again before night it would be okay. So, we went, and I met a retired pastor I sort of knew from conventions I’d gone to. He said, “Let me introduce you to the new president.” Helga was busy devouring the hors d’oeuvres, so I said, ‘Okay.’
“Well, don’t you suppose the president was talking just then with a professor who is supposed to teach preachers how to preach. It seems the president had asked this guy why he gets so many complaints about preaching.
“‘I know they’re pretty good preachers when they leave the Sem,’ the teacher of preachers maintained.
“‘What happens after they graduate?’ the president wanted to know.
“‘I don’t know for sure,’ the teacher replied. ‘I think the worst thing that can happen is when they have a truly horrendous week, then go up in the pulpit without preparation and are told, “What a wonderful sermon, Pastor! Best you’ve ever done!” Then the pastor gets lazy and decides if he can be that good without preparation, why bother to prepare?’
“My retired pastor friend then decided it was time to put in his two cents. He said, ‘I think they do get lazy. They don’t have the same discipline they used when at the seminary.’
“The new president looked to my friend and asked, ‘What kind of discipline are you talking about?’
“My preacher friend replied, ‘If you take preaching seriously, you prepare five days out of the week. Tuesday: translate from the Greek. Wednesday: Exegete the text. (I had no idea what that word meant.) Thursday: Write the sermon in rough draft. Friday: Outline the sermon. Saturday: Memorize the outline.’
“I just listened to these experts and wondered if these poor preachers didn’t simply need a shot in the arm. Puts me in mind of the time we first got electricity on the home place. My brother Erwin decided to see what would happen if he ran a wire from the electric fence to the mailbox. When the mailman came, we boys hid in the ditch to see what would happen. It worked great! When the mailman came storming into our house, we were disciplined proper! We didn’t try that trick again, although I did hear the folks laughing in the kitchen that night.
“Maybe our poor preachers need a shot in the arm to wake them up. Or why don’t the bishops just schedule one day a year for improving preaching? Bring in a really good preacher to tell them how to improve. I bet the congregations would all say Amen! to that!”
Well … it’s something to ponder.
“Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own son.” (Acts 20:28 nrsv)