The only thing that I miss from when I was a minister is the preaching. I think it’s because it’s the only part of the role where I ever felt competent. It’s taken me many years to get to the point where I feel comfortable acknowledging that I am a good preacher. My reluctance to do so came from a combination of insecurity and that common Protestant brand of pride – false humility. I know now that if God has made you good at something, pretending that you’re not very good at it is just extremely disrespectful.
I preached my first sermon on Boxing Day 1993. I was just short of my 17th birthday and had been a Christian for about six months. I don’t know many churches that would have given someone like me a chance in the pulpit, and I will always be thankful to Peter Taylor for taking that risk. Every now and then, during my A-Level years, I would turn up at some village chapel to preach. The congregations were always kind, because I was something of a novelty. I don’t think anyone else in my school was investing their youth in that particular way. What it means is that, as I approach my 40th birthday, I have had nearly 25 years of preaching experience. That’s very helpful, because sometimes it can take you that long to figure out what, how and why you should be preaching what you’re preaching.
At some point I will probably share some of my thoughts on the art of preaching, probably on this very blog. Preaching is an art, and a responsibility. Those of us who are doing it should take the development of our skills seriously. I have very high standards for preachers, I’m afraid, but that’s OK. Now that I’ve finally managed to divest myself of false humility it frees me up to start working on developing the real deal.