Connecting

The first few sermons I preached were in Abilene Texas at the Central Church of Christ while I attended college.  Gosh, I was really terrible! Those sweet people listened patiently to a twenty-one year old kid tell them how to think and be.

On one occasion my text was John 11, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Most of what I said was quite unmemorable, but one thing stands out in my mind:  

“Perhaps the most powerful moment of this story.” I marveled, “is not that Lazarus was raised, but that Jesus saw the grieving people and wept for them.” 

As I said these words I looked up from my notes and “saw” my audience, too, which included several recently widowed people.  I saw the clutched tissues, heard the quiet sniffling, and met their red eyes.  Not only did I say something they needed to hear about a caring god, but I connected with them and was moved by their sadness.  At that moment I learned that the most powerful thing to happen in the pulpit does not come from eloquence or charisma, but from connecting with the people and feeling what they feel. 

I experienced the power of my audiences’ feelings many times over the years. Their angst could be a force that would engulf me and weigh me down. Occasionally, my words helped but connecting with them was what made people feel a little better.   

It didn’t happen every time. Sometimes the audience didn’t trust me enough or I was too tired to carry the burden. But it happened more as I got older and worried less about performance and focused instead on the people.

3 thoughts on “Connecting

  1. That happened to me, but not at Central. At Burleson c of C I was preaching a sermon and was kind of startled when I saw grown men weeping. This is where our feelings about that went in a different direction. Rather than being moved, my thought was pretty mundane. “Wow, I’m doing a good job!” I suppose I did feel some “connectedness” too…I’m not a monster, after all. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your reflections brought to mind a sermon – much too long – in which I was explicating the painful process involved in God forgiving our sins and urging people to bear the painful process of forgiving others. During the sermon, at different times, two men got up and went in the direction of the bathrooms; so I assumed they needed to relieve themselves. After the service, one of the two explained to me that he had been so moved by what I was saying that he went to the bathroom in order not to be seen weeping in the congregation; and he found the other man in there, having been weeping himself. I was profoundly humbled that what I thought was a simple exercise in theology had moved these men emotionally and, I hope, spiritually as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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