Most of us have seen the above video of a tongue-tied, frustrated young college student trying to give a sports update on campus TV. If you haven't seen it, give it a click.
If you have a conscience, you laugh at the poor guy, but feel bad for him at the same time. Yeah, that's what we call "ha-ha sad." Most of us can relate to the deer-in-the-headlights terror, compounded by the fact that just walking out is not an option and you have to try and "power through" (as Michael Bluth puts it) and finish the presentation, even while every garbled sentence that squirms out of your mouth is more malformed than the last. There's a malignant self-perpetuation in these moments.
Well, that was me yesterday. I barely slept Saturday night, felt awful Sunday morning, and couldn't stop thinking about how--if I weren't the pastor--this is a day I'd just stay home and make fun of Joel Osteen. But alas, I couldn't do it. On with the show (yes, on a day like that, you've got no choice but to approach it as a show.) On my way into the church (about an hour later than I usually arrive), I was accosted by one of our seniors, full of wrath about how long I "went over" last week (I didn't "go over," though, since nowhere is it written what time church is "supposed" to get done).
At any rate, the sermon was dismal and included at least three moments reminiscent of that poor college newscaster (his name is Brian Collins, by the way). But, like Brian, I had no choice but to push ahead and complete the job. It's funny; I've preached hundreds of sermons, but when one turns out to be a wash, I feel like I'm utterly unfit to preach. My high marks in the subject, my ordination, and the awards I've won for preaching just seem to remind me that I used to be good at it. The fact that I've botched things before and always bounced back is also no consolation.
But what cheered me up this time around was learning about where Brian Collins is now. Check it out: Bio of Brian Collins. Hey, if Brian can bounce back from being the punchline of a viral video, anyone can put anything behind them.
The worst part, however, was that I was preaching on the return of Christ and the signs that precede it. Bombing a sermon on that topic did take some of the fun out of our trip to gawk at Jack Van Impe. I mean, who am I to critique another preacher's take on the End Times when I can barely follow a train of thought in my own preaching on the topic?
Then I remembered what I've got going for me: my theology wasn't dreamed up by a British Lawyer 150 years ago.
I'll give you a full report on the Van Impe event tomorrow. I need a full day to..uh..process it.
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An award-winning preacher and Bible teacher, Zachary Bartels has been serving as senior pastor of Judson Baptist Church for nearly a decade. He earned his BA in world religions from Cornerstone University and his Masters of Divinity from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He enjoys film, fine cigars, stimulating conversation, gourmet coffee, reading, writing, and cycling.
His writing, with its combination of clean prose, tight action, and cutting humor, has been highlighted by The Grand Rapids Press, www.speculativefaith.com, uber-popular blog TeamPyro, and elsewhere. His next two books (both supernatural suspense novels) will be published by Thomas Nelson and will hit stores in October of 2014 and July of 2015, respectively. He lives in the capital city of a mitten-shaped Midwestern state with his wife Erin and their son.