When you muck it up
Most Sundays there is at least one comment in one of the sermons I wish I could take back. Usually it’s something crass, blurted out in a fit of enthusiasm. I don’t know what it’s like for other preachers, but the entire time I’m up there my mind is running like a scared rabbit. 60% of my energy is focused on communicating with passion the message I believe God requires me to deliver…but the other 40% is my Adversary.
What else can you call it?
There’s a madman inside my head who’s screaming obscenities nonstop from the time I walk onto the stage. The Adversary tells me I’m not qualified to be up there, that no one listens, that no one would care even if they began to listen…the Adversary tells me to just throw up my hands and walk off, that I’m focusing on the wrong things, that people will complain regardless of what I say or how I say it, that church is doomed and boring and I’ll be the last one on planet Earth to hang on a cross.
It takes tremendous energy for me to defeat this Adversary. In my head I am fighting non-stop from the moment I get there—fighting to ignore these accusations, fighting to maintain the right tone (comical in some spots, approachable in others…down to earth, but thoughtful and well-reasoned), fighting to break through the tirade.
And I do. I can only think of one time whene the Adversary got the better of me.
Problem is, I don’t always come out unscathed. I make inappropriate jokes. I comment on issues that are outside of my purview as a minister of the gospel. I say things I immediately regret and wish I could stop and address but—for a variety of reasons—I rarely can.
Which means I go home at the end of every Sunday fighting the Adversary in my Jeep. The conversation doesn’t end when I leave the church. It persists. Even when I sit down with my family—surrounded by love and friendship—the Adversary is with me.
Until I eat, sleep, and begin again the following day. Then I get a break from the Adversary until the next time I stand before a congregation and endeavor to bring the Word of the Lord.
I’m writing this in part to apologize to all the people who have sat under my teaching over the years. I’ve done my best, but you deserved better. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not melancholy or depressed. I have loved being a pastor!
The other reason I’m writing is to remind my Adversary that he lost again this Sunday. He got in a few licks, but after a snack and a nap, I was able to remind him he’s been defeated for a long time.
Did I forget to mentioned that the Hebrew word for “Adversary” is Satan?
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com