I still miss Ginny Franklin. I still hear her feisty, playful voice in my memory sometimes. I’ll say, “Well, I’m trying.” … and I’ll hear her say, “Yes; you’re very trying!” Or I’ll say, “I’m going to go.” …and I’ll hear her say, “Go-right-ahead…gourd-head!” Virginia Franklin was the first person to make my wife and I feel at home in the First Baptist Church of Linton. She was a corker!
One Sunday after church, she took my wife and me out to lunch (again!). This time, we were joined by Max and Katie Slough. Max was the long-time pastor of the Glenburn United Methodist Church; I’d known him before, and we became reacquainted when we moved to Linton.
Sitting there over what was left of our lunch, I breathed a huge sigh and commented how tired I was after the morning’s services. Max responded, “Of course you are! You preached this morning; virtue has gone out of you, just like when Jesus healed.” He was referring to three references in the King James Bible: Mark 5:30, Luke 6:19 and Luke 8:46.
After a woman with “an issue of blood” touched the border of Jesus’ garment and was instantly healed, Jesus knew it immediately: “And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched Me, for I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me.” (Luke 8:46 KJV)
I was a little surprised at Max’s comment; I’d never heard it put quite that way before. But before I could respond or question Max about what he’d said, our feisty friend Ginny piped up and said: “No different than how a woman feels after she’s vacuumed her house!” That effectively ended that line of conversation, and we moved on to talk of other things.
Looking back on it, though, I have to say: as much as I loved Ginny Franklin, I believe she was wrong. I have vacuumed our house on occasion (though in the interest of full disclosure I have to say, not that often). I have even worked for a professional janitorial service and vacuumed the showroom floors of car dealerships. It’s work, no mistake. But the drained feeling I have after preaching is different from anything else I’ve ever experienced. I have done work that has left me much more physically exhausted. But there is a mental and emotional drain after preaching that I’ve never felt after anything else. It’s different even than teaching a Sunday School lesson or leading a Bible Study.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the long-time pastor of the Westminster Chapel in London, England. He was asked to preach all over the United Kingdom during his ministry. After concluding his sermon at one meeting, he left the platform and sat down on the front row, while someone else closed the service. A young man seated next to him leaned over and asked, “Dr. Jones, how do you feel?” Lloyd-Jones replied, “I feel tired.” For some reason, the young man pressed further: “But, sir, you’ve just finished a brilliant sermon. What does it feel like after you’ve done that?” Lloyd-Jones thought for a moment, and said, “I believe it is the closest a man can ever come to the experience of giving birth.”
The experience of preaching (or attempting to preach) is enough to humble any man. Dr. Lloyd-Jones once said that he wouldn’t cross the street to hear himself preach. He also said that he felt he’d only truly preached once in his life…and that time, he’d been dreaming!
Back in college I had a friend who was constantly reading books on preaching and praying and how to have spiritual power when you preach. I really didn’t understand…’til the first time I was asked to preach. I laid a ten-minute ‘egg’ on the altar! After that, I went to my friend and asked if I could read some of those books, too. Every preacher knows what it is to ask, with the Apostle Paul, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16)
More often than not, the experience of preaching is like “wading in peanut butter”, as one older preacher put it to me. But every now and then, the preacher has the experience of feeling it flow, of the words pouring out of your mouth like a gushing stream (the older preachers call that having liberty when you preach, from 2 Cor. 3:17 – “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”) A “holy hush” settles over the congregation, and the moment seems frozen in time: hearts are attending to the Word being preached, and there is a sense in which even the preacher is a spectator to what is happening. That is preaching. Moments like that cannot be manufactured. And when they come, you know that there is more going on than simply someone giving a speech about religious things. God is there, and His Spirit is taking His Word, through the lips of His servant, to speak His Truth to His people.
And when it’s over, you want to go sit down for a while. You feel rather like the pipe that the water has just gushed through. And you pray, “O God! Thank You for the incredible privilege of preaching Your Word! Please, do that again, Lord! Amen!”
And then you say: “P.S., Lord: forgive me for all the ‘eggs’ I’ve laid on the altar.” (I’ve never prayed that after I’ve finished vacuuming!)
Soli Deo Gloria!