So yesterday was my first sermon to preach as the Highland Preaching minister. It was a day I’ll never forget as both exciting and terrifying,, On many levels, this was a moment that had been a long time in the making.
I remember growing up in my tiny church, Brother Foy used to take me to different churches that he was going to guest speak at. Then at the last moment, right after the last song before he got up, he’d stand up and announce to the congregation that he had brought someone else to speak that morning.
And that speaker was me.
The first few times he did this, I wanted to immediately make my impromptu sermon one about honesty. Specifically in regards to surprise speaking invitations. But after a while, what Bro. Foy was trying to do worked. I started becoming comfortable thinking on my feet while in front of people. It formed me.
I think about all the different times Rick would tell me practical ways in which I could improve a point, or how to say something a little better. It was advice that was born out of decades of loving to preach, and loving preachers. And it formed me.
But not just that.
They say that preachers help form churches, but the reverse is true as well. Churches form preachers. I’ve grown by watching audiences respond, or not respond,. Preaching is a product of a hundred senior ladies coming up with a word of encouragement. It is the culmination of dozens of different people being kind, when they just as easily could have been harsh. It’s loving people when they are off, because you trust God could form them into something more than they currently are.
I’ve shared on here before about my passion to help raise up younger preachers at Highland. But the truth is this isn’t something that any one person can do. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I think that the same can be said for preachers.
In the book of Hebrews, the writer is addressing a community that is scared, and with good reason. They are facing some pretty imminent persecution for following Jesus. And so the book of Hebrews crescendos by talking to them about the people who have gone before them. It reminds these people that they have a story with people like Abraham and Gideon, Moses and Rahab, David and Samuel.
Hebrews tells us about the heroes of the faith, the ones that every good boy and girl grew up hearing about. And then we hear that these men and women are cheering us on.
They’re cheering for us to run the race that was marked out for us.
A lot of people think that Hebrews was written first as a sermon. And I’ve got to think that this preacher would’ve noticed that in this list they were laying out there was a lot of people who preached before them. I wonder if this preacher realized that they were someone who is standing in a long tradition of people who have spoken for God, and now it was their turn.
Yesterday, I got a ton of text messages and emails from men and women who were reminding me that I am not doing this alone. I’m standing on the shoulder who people who care about my family and the Kingdom of God. But one of them I had to share.
Last night I got one of the most encouraging emails ever. It was from a teenager at Highland. They told me that they saw an Angel up there with me while I was preaching. Now I’ve never met this person, but they said that they weren’t prone to having “sightings” like this. In fact, it was the first thing like this they had ever seen.
Now I don’t normally share emails like this on here, and I’m trying to protect the anonymity of the person who wrote it (and not weird anyone out). But I loved this. What young teenager has the courage to write something like this to their new preacher?
But I will cherish it forever.
I’m not prone to seeing angels or demons behind every bush. And my more skeptical side tends to write off the stuff that can’t be dissected or understood…when coming from most people. But what if…
What if this teen was just peeking into what the preacher of Hebrews already knows? I don’t’ think it’s something that is reserved for just preachers, but hopefully it includes us…What if we got a chance to peek into the cloud of witnesses that cheer us on?
From Angels to Abel, from Saints past to Saints present. The Scriptures tell a story that insists we are not doing this thing alone.
The race marked out for you, is uniquely marked out for you. Your ministry, your passions, the calling on your life may be unique, but it is not a task you undertake by yourself.
You are not alone.