This past Sunday my son Adam preached his first sermon at our church. He just finished his first year of classes at the seminary, so he’s getting some experience in front of a live audience. We’ve been here in Palm Coast for 14 years, so this is basically the church he’s grown up in. I had hoped that preaching in front of friendly faces, who have been supporting and praying for him would make for a positive start. I was right. And I was impressed. I had read his sermon ahead of time and given a few suggestions, and the final product was excellent (check it out here). He was poised, relaxed, confident and well-spoken. All this in a room where the AC and the sound system weren’t working since the power in the neighborhood went out the second he began preaching!
As a parent, I may have been more nervous than he was. I wanted him to have an enjoyable, positive first experience in the pulpit (even though he didn’t actually use the pulpit). I wanted him to be himself, not feel pressured to be like me. I wanted him to relax knowing that God’s work never returns void, always accomplishing what he intends. By the grace of God, all my parent prayers were answered. The only thing is, now I have a hard act to follow this Sunday!
I’ve searched my mind for memories of preaching my first sermon. No luck so far. I know where I was: Messiah Lutheran Church in Wolcottville, IN, my second-year field work congregation. And I believe I have the manuscript of that sermon. And I know I survived the experience. But I fear the memory has faded, and there is no recording. I suspect I didn’t do nearly as well as Adam did, though.
One memory I do have comes from my early years of ministry in Connecticut. I clearly remember Adam, age 4 and his sister, age 3, sitting at the dining room table one day, each with an open Bible and a page filled with scribbling. When I asked what they were doing, they replied, “We’re writing our sermons.” We may even have a photo of that moment.
I hope those present realized they were getting a chance to see the next generation of pastors being prepared by our seminaries. Our professors are doing a great job! But I also hope they see that they play a big part in preparing the next generation of church workers, too. God certainly uses the many years of prayer, encouragement, grace, example, and teaching of a Christian congregation to prepare and send out workers into his harvest fields. It certainly is a privilege — as a parent, a pastor, and a member — to be a part of that process.