not having three classes turn in essays on back-to-back days! I always tried to give the students in
my one writing class a semester the weekend to write their essays. I did the same for my students
this semester; unfortunately that meant I got 50 or so essays this past Monday/Tuesday. I’m not
sharing this to get sympathy, but simply to provide context for the real story.
When I realized my rookie mistake a couple of weeks ago, I knew I’d have to recycle an old message for the church I’d be preaching at the following Sunday rather than writing a new one. Looking
through my files I found “How Coachable Are You?” based on text from the minor prophet Zephaniah which I had written in the summer of 2016. I decided to repackage it as “Game On or Game Over?”
and redid the introduction into something funny about my high school basketball career complete
with interesting photos. It would work.
As I grabbed spare moments over the past couple of days to re-read and tweak it a bit, I realized
how hard-hitting it is (duh, it’s based on a text from Zephaniah!). I meant to revise it in a way that
would still be challenging but not too harsh. But on top of the grading this week (I still have 19 essays I need to grade as I write this) my mom wanted to spend time with me Saturday morning since she
hadn’t seen me all week. A young man from our church got baptized Saturday afternoon and
invited Jeff to participate in leading the service. The video I was creating for the service at my church did not go well and I finally gave up after three hours of struggle. And a good friend I hadn’t talked
with in ages invited me over for coffee early Sunday morning.
The end result: I did not take time to make any significant changes to the message. I simply prayed
that the Spirit would speak through me and use my humble offering in some way as I drove to the
church. Maybe the photos in the introduction would save me…
I loved worshiping at the church the first time I spoke there last summer and was looking forward to
preaching there again. The praise team is awesome—and they even sang my current favorite song (“Old Church Choir”)--twice. They go with the flow with having a guest preacher and are so
encouraging. While I was speaking, I was still wondering what I was thinking in choosing such a hard-hitting message--although it’s not like I have very many to choose from! I walked back to my seat
silently vowing I would write a new one for the next church I speak at in a couple of weeks. I avoided eye contact with the praise team member closest to me after giving the benediction, but she hugged me anyway!
“That was totally a God thing!” she exclaimed. “That’s exactly what our church needs to hear!” A
moment later the pianist hugged me and agreed. Then the drummer. I shared that I had felt so
rushed during the week and almost embarrassed at using that message without revising it more
carefully. “No,” they said. “It was so on point with where we’re at as a church.”
I shared in a blog a couple of weeks ago that I still get surprised by how God uses us if we are open
to being used—and how what we may see as the “week from hell” messing up all our plans to serve God can turn out to bless others so much.