People often apologize to me for something that happened in a church service. I’ve heard lots of great apologies.
“I’m sorry I fell asleep.”
“I’m sorry I had to rush out.”
“I’m sorry my kid lit his hair on fire.”
I love church—both the people of God and the worship services. I love the oddities that can happen during a church service. I’ve had fire alarms go off during a Father’s Day sermon (thanks to an intern who attempted to make scones in the kitchen). At the church I pastored in Indiana, the heating element went out for a baptism in January. The woman to be baptized insisted we go through with baptism despite the ice in the baptistery. She took the polar plunge and came up gasping a Holy Spirit language I’d never heard before nor since.
If you’ve ever spoken to a crowd, you probably know the feeling of looking out at everybody as a rush of thoughts consumes your mind. So, what exactly am I thinking while I preach? I’ll share my thoughts, but if you preach regularly, share yours in the comments.
First, I don’t notice who is getting up. I learned a long time ago not to get upset when someone leaves during a worship service. It could be a bathroom break. It could be that a person received an emergency text from a family member. Or it could be that you hate what I’m preaching. At any point during a sermon, someone is moving around. Unless you’re doing jumping jacks in a leotard, it’s not likely to bother me.
Second, I’ve always got something on my mind, even when I’m mid-sentence. Like the people listening, I’m fighting a spiritual battle to stay focused. Have I ever thought about what I’m going to do on Sunday afternoon while preaching? Yes. Have I ever had stray, random, and distracting thoughts compete for my mind during a sermon? Yes. Sometimes, I say a concise prayer, asking God to keep me on task.
Third, I don’t always see your face with the way our lights are situated. So, it’s not often that I notice someone sleeping. However, when your wife violently jabs you in the side with her elbow while you’re snoring, and you jar awake quickly, I do notice it. And like everyone around you, I chuckle inside.
Fourth, I probably heard your child crying, but it doesn’t anger me. In fact, I believe it’s a beautiful sound. A church with no children is dead. The sound of a baby is as powerful as a choir anthem. It means the church is alive.
Fifth, every week I think while I’m preaching how much I love the people who are sitting and listening. It’s a privilege to preach. I don’t take it lightly. I come prepared after much time in God’s Word, prayer, and research. I know you prepare your heart to listen. I will admit to having nightmares of showing up to preach and no one being in the room. But that’s never happened and never will. The fact that people care about God’s Word keeps me going.
So I’ll gladly hear your apologies about taking a phone call, getting sick and needing to leave, or quickly sliding out of a pew to take a wailing child into the lobby. But there’s no need to apologize. I’m just glad you care about God’s Word. However, if your kid does light his hair on fire during the Christmas Eve candlelight service, please tell me about it. I love hearing those stories. They make me smile.
Posted on December 6, 2023
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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