I don’t think people realize the inner dialogue I have preaching every week. I am sure there are these innerdialogues behind every pulpit every Sunday, but since I am not invited into those personal conversations I cannot tell you what is happening. Since I cannot escape my own, I can tell you what happens there. Every Sunday, as I pick up the Bible in one hand and repeat the memorized phrase, requesting people to stand to hear the Word of God read today, it begins.
I never enjoyed speaking in front of people. Scratch that, I hate speaking in front of people, especially growing up. I remember ducking and cowering when the teacher was looking for a reader or an answer. When I could not escape the call, my heart would pound, my tongue would feel heavy, and the nerves shot out of me a like a neon beer sign, begging everyone to witness my misery. Honestly, after preaching for almost 12 years, it has gotten slightly better. I am not in total panic mode and I am a little calm on the inside. Yet, every week that inner dialogue starts in my head and with all the eyes on me and what I am about to say, I trudge forward into the preaching abyss.
The conversation in my head has a lot to do with my ordination interviews and oh how I wish I could redo at least one of them. I wish I could sit in front of the preaching committee once again. They read my sermon and loved it. Then they looked at my video and were puzzled. They saw a monotone, nervous, statue of a preacher almost reading his sermon off his manuscript. They confessed that after reading the sermon they had a picture of what my preaching style would look like and the one they witnessed did not match. As those words washed over me I could not say anything. I did not know what to say. However if I could do it again, I would say this:
“I am called by God to preach the Good News to the people of this world, in the pulpits I am appointed to. I do this because I am called by God and only because of that fact. The nervous train wreck of a preacher you see on that video tape is a person who is scared to death to talk in front of people. He is a preacher who never wanted to be the center of attention, an introvert stuck in an extrovert’s job description for an hour each Sunday. I am learning to do better, trying to move forward in my calling but the only reason I am up there is because God has called me. I am forced by God’s will to stand behind that pulpit and to find comfort, ease, and peace behind it will take some time. When you see and hear me preach I pray you don’t see me, I pray you see and hear God because that is the only reason I am up there.”
I passed my boards, thankfully. But the committee did not know whether to pass me because of my preaching style. I think this is because we have a cookie cutter expectation when it comes to preaching. We all want the charismatic, outgoing, showman/woman who thrives in the spotlight. People want extroverts. God called me, an introvert, to preach though. Just as God called the stuttering and leadership limited Moses, the silent but always present Disciple whom Jesus loved, and the passionate, spiritual and “heady” prophet Jeremiah. God called introverts into this extroverted position because we have something to offer, to say, and a calling to live out.
The introvert heads to the pulpit not to feed an ego, have some “look at me” time, or become the center of attention. The introvert heads to the pulpit because God has dragged him/her up there, sometimes kicking and screaming. However, that preacher is up there because God called and only because God called.