This is an excerpt from my book, "Just Me: Humorous, Helpful & Odd." It is a fictional piece about preaching for the first time.
Report for My Homiletics Class
A record of my assignment to preach for my church back home over Thanksgiving break
Ever since my pastor had asked me to fill the pulpit because he was going to be out of town over Thanksgiving, The upcoming message insisted on my attention and dominated my prayer life up to this point. I had to fulfill the assignment for homiletics class to preach for a church over the holiday break. What do I preach to people who know me, especially my family?
Doomsday eventually arrived. I had prepared my message, proofed it and polished it. Yet, I couldn’t convince myself that I was ready. During the song service the butterflies fluttered ruthlessly throughout my entire abdomen, not just my stomach. My sweat glands functioned over abundantly by saturating my clothing. No matter how hot I felt, I knew I could not remove my jacket during the message without revealing wet armpits. Each congregational song, each announcement, each “special” sung by the choir and individuals, just marked time toward the inevitable, the indescribable, the excruciating moment when I would have to open my mouth and utter something beneficial for these people – this assembly who would be expecting something fantastic from a college student - and some might even take notes!
The assistant pastor introduced me - my time had come. My nerves had been snapping one by one. When he mentioned my name, a flurry of nerve destruction occurred, leaving only one nerve between a nervous breakdown and me. As he talked, the words became indiscernible vocalizations like the sounds Charlie Brown’s teacher made in the television shows. All too quickly, he finished and invited me to the pulpit to preach. I wondered if my ability to walk would fail and I would fall on my face as I stepped up onto the platform. Had anyone ever actually died of embarrassment? No, probably not, embarrassment just maimed, mutilated and marred their mind until they melted into a mound of mush. As I made my way to the podium, I pictured myself living in a padded room hidden from society, never to be heard from again.
Suddenly, I found myself behind on the platform. I placed my Bible on the pulpit and opened it, knowing that I would have to look up at those faces – all those faces expecting profundity. I tried to think of a joke to set the audience at ease, but I couldn’t remember where I put my memory. I took out my notes. The paper amplified my shaking hands by making a loud rattling sound. I forced myself to look up at the people. I tried to talk, but nothing happened. I had never realized how loud silence could be! I want to say that I spit out something, but I didn’t have enough saliva to do so. I learned why preachers want a glass of water when they preach.
I turned my gaze to my notes and stared at them. Have you ever experienced the uneasy feeling that someone is watching you? Amplify that by one hundred. One hundred? That equals two hundred eyes; no wonder uneasiness prevailed! I told myself to stop thinking and start reading. As I struggled to find the first page, I realized that putting page numbers on my message would have been a good idea.
Once I started and discovered that the audience was interested and attentive, my uneasiness - persisted. I picked out one person to preach to, but she fell asleep. That irritated me. I preached louder and she woke up. At that point, I realized that I was preaching! The liveliest, most animated preacher was bounding about - on the inside, while on the outside I sounded as excited as my eighth grade accounting teacher (I know because I listened to the CD afterward).
Somehow I reached the end of my message. Did I preach too fast due to nerves? Did I actually preach the entire thing? Did I go overtime? I knew I had bombed. I wanted to sneak out the side door without talking to anybody, but I still needed to conduct the invitation (a common procedure in Baptist services). This meant applying the point of the message to the individual and inviting them to the front altar to spend time with God in prayer.
How do I give an invitation? I hadn’t written out my invitation. I figured that would be a no-brainer, but I couldn’t remember what to say. Good night, how many times have I heard Pastor and preachers at my college give an invitation? The flutterbies returned. I stuttered and stammered something and let the vocalist sing. I wanted to cry. I wanted to hide. I wanted to die - until I looked up. People had come to the altar! How did that happen?
Then I realized it wasn’t me; it was God!