“A Christmas Story” is a holiday favorite around our house. Through the years, we’ve memorized various scenes and enjoyed quoting lines before they say them in the movie. One of my favorite lines from the movie comes when Ralphie was standing in line to see Santa Claus and the “Wicked Witch of the West” got down in his face and started talking to him. Ralphie, trying to concentrate on what he was about to say to Santa Claus, turned to the witch and said, “Don’t bother me, I’m…I’m thinking.”
That scene reminds me of how preachers sometimes feel when people approach them with various matters just before they are to preach a sermon. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying preachers are “prima donnas” and should be treated as such. Nor am I saying we should be as rude as Ralphie was, but what I am saying is that there are appropriate and inappropriate times to discuss certain matters with your preacher. These three tips may be helpful.
- Don’t ask the preacher to remember something just before he gets up to preach. At this time, his mind is focused on preaching and presenting the lesson he has prepared. He’s trying to keep his points, sub-points, illustrations, and Scripture references all in his mind. Chances are slim if he will remember what you asked him to remember by the time he finishes his sermon. Also, keep in mind that not only might you ask him to remember something, so might 10 or 15 other people. If you want him to remember something, and need to tell him before he gets up to preach, take the time to write it down and let him put it in his Bible for later reference. This can greatly reduce your frustration with your preacher’s poor memory.
- Don’t get confrontational with the preacher before he gets up to preach. There’s a time and a place for everything (Ecc. 3:1-8). But distracting a preacher from his focus just before he speaks is not productive and can adversely impact the delivery of a message that has the potential to save a person’s soul. Through the years, I’ve had a few times in which a person attempted to “pick a fight” (my words) with me just moments before I got up to preach. I know from experience how distracting that can be. If you have issues to resolve with your preacher, work at resolving those issues on some other day of the week prior to Sunday, or after he is finished preaching on Sunday.
- Don’t bring peripheral problems to the preacher just before he gets up to preach. These distractions can cause him to lose his focus. A leaking faucet, a cracked mirror in the restroom, or the setting on the thermostat may be better handled by someone else at this particular time. Less than a month after my dad passed away, I was asked to fill in for him and preach a sermon he was scheduled to preach on a lectureship. I can’t explain to you the mental energy and focus it required to get through this lesson and to say the things I wanted to say. However, quite literally seconds before I got up to preach, someone brought some problems to my attention that were frustrating in nature and totally broke my focus. I was then emotionally unable to say many of things that I had wanted to say and had prepared myself to say.
I’ve lived long enough to know that there’s a time for me to be in the kitchen and that time is not when my wife is trying to prepare a meal. Probably all of us husbands can understand exactly what I mean, and probably all of our wives agree with my wife’s feelings on the matter. All I’m trying to say in this article is that if cooking a meal for our bodies demands uninterrupted focus, then so might the preparation and delivery of a meal for our souls.