I don’t know if you have ever preached a sermon, from an actual pulpit, with people in pews staring expectantly at you, but I can tell you this:
I have strapped a parachute to my back, run down the side of a mountain and jumped off it, and that was nothing compared to preaching. You can listen to the whole sermon here but if you don’t have time, here are three things I learned:
1. Your heart is more important than my opinion. All kinds of people go to First City – gay people, wealthy people, drug addicts and people with checkered pasts who’ve wandered back after years away. Pastor Rick Hazelip and his team embody what Bob Goff said again and again at the Love Does Stuff Conference – “You are not just invited here, you are welcome.”
So when tackling hard things with people who are groping around for Jesus, Pastor Rick’s framework is this:
Your heart is more important than my opinion. So I’m going to protect it while we talk about this. For with the measure I deal out to you, it will be measured back to me. I am not your judge, I am your witness to a life that is available in Jesus Christ.
This church hums with the love and mercy of God.
2. It’s not about me. While I was busy peeing my pants with fear during worship, the Lord reminded me of Zechariah 4:6. How’s that for obscure? See what a scholar I am? Wrong. It was written on the back of the SCRUBS Medical Mission t-shirts all of us wore every day in Zambia.
‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.
Oh yah, I thought, I just have to get up there, open my mouth and let him fill it. I walked up to that pulpit with no pee on my dress.
3. If you’re preaching about Jesus, while clinging to his feet, something is going to land. I prayed hard ahead of time for the exact people at First City who needed to hear what I planned to say.
- How mad I was at the church.
- How, as a result, I tried to make my life work without Jesus, and the myriad ways that failed.
- How I finally took the tatters of my faith and the chip on my shoulder and laid them at Jesus’ feet.
They came up to me afterward one by one and said,
“You were talking to me today.”
“I’ve been out of church for ten years, but I’ve been at First City a month. I love it.”
“I’m going home to read my Bible.”
Those words are almost more than I can take. Thank you First City for having me and teaching me.