A few weeks into this madness, the global pandemic that has resulted in the unprecedented move to not provide physical worship gatherings at our church, Kenton Beshore called to check on me. Kenton is my predecessor, our pastor emeritus, and he still serves as teaching pastor for us.
“How in the world are you not dying on the inside?” is how he began.
“Oh, I am dying. At least it feels like it every single week” was my response.
We talked about what is missing, about what we both are missing as communicators. So much is missing. Here are six things I am deeply missing from preaching in physical gatherings each week.
1. The moment right before you speak when you hear God’s people singing.
Walking up to speak in the midst of God’s people singing together… Oh, that is so good. The truth is being declared from the lips of God’s people. It is not heaven and it is not perfect, but it is a glimpse, a foreshadowing of the eternal gathering. There is a holy expectation, a longing to meet with God. And carrying God’s Word into that moment is weighty and an indescribable honor. Yes, I am doing that in our online gatherings – but without hearing all the voices. I miss those voices in that moment so much.
2. The glorious sense of knowing the Spirit is at work in the room.
If you have preached, you know those holy moments when you know the Lord is taking His Word and applying it to hearts. You sense when the Spirit is connecting to people and doing His gracious work. I know it is happening on the other side of the camera, but you don’t get to sense it as much.
3. The adjusting in the moment.
There are times when you think “that point has not yet sunk in deep. Let me double-down and explain more.” Or times when you are responding to how people are responding. Their responsive encouragement helps pull out your best preaching. It is not happening in this season. The camera does not provide an “Amen” or even a nod. The lens just stares back at you.
4. The adjusting between services.
We are currently recording our services on Wednesdays. With all the camera angles, the editing, the rendering, etc. – the timing works for us to provide the best we can for our people each weekend. When we have recorded on Thursdays or Fridays, our team has worked through the night and it is not sustainable for them (they are amazing by the way). But from the recording on Wednesday until the services are played on Saturday night, I am a tortured soul. I replay the message in my mind, wondering if I was clear enough on certain points. I never lived that way when preaching to live physical gatherings. I often wanted to make points clearer and I could easily adjust between services and give it another go. The wait time was minutes, not days. Those days in between recording and delivery is not good for my soul.
5. The time after church on the patio.
One of my favorite preacher quotes comes from Martyn Lloyd-Jones: “To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach quite another.” I love the people of Mariners Church so much, and I miss conversations with them on the patio.
6. Basic human decency.
After we finished watching the service as a family one weekend early in the “stay at home orders,” Evie picked up my laptop and was watching the next service as it aired. Someone in the chat commented about being really glad Kenton was speaking instead of me. Evie typed into the chat, “Who said they don’t like my daddy as much?” I don’t think people really thought it was her. But it was her! I had to explain to her afterwards that for centuries Christians have compared the preachers – all the way back to a church in Corinth. Yes, it is immature (according to I Corinthians 3) but it is reality and God loves His people regardless. It happens every week I know, but declaring it in the chat feels like someone standing in the foyer and yelling it out to everyone in the room in the middle of the sermon. The chat box is not a small dinner time convo; it is the digital foyer! Some decency people!
I don’t believe I will take these six gifts surrounding preaching in physical gatherings for granted in the future. But, how am I preaching to my soul as I preach to a camera? On Tuesday I will share what the Lord has given me to preach to my soul in the midst of this craziness.