I was acutely aware that I had one chance to preach at the National Festival last year. Just one! I wanted to make sure that my sermon was great. I wanted it to be well crafted, gospel-centered, and dynamic.
I wanted to be prepared to deliver it with authority and without any notes. In light of all that, it might not have been the best idea to scrap what I had spent weeks preparing to write a completely different sermon the night before.
But my new idea inspired me. I felt certain that its message was the perfect one for the particular group of people to whom I was about to preach. I decided to forge ahead, and stay up until the wee hours of the morning getting the message hammered out.
When I printed off the new sermon 30 minutes before I got up to preach, I knew in my heart that I was going to have to fall on God’s grace for this message to be what it needed to be. It wasn’t ready.
When I was finished preaching, I knew that it had been fine, but that adequate preparation would have made it more effective. I realized that, while God may have given me the new idea, he maybe had meant it for another time.
Looking back, I know that it didn’t matter whether my sermon was perfectly crafted. The point of the festival was not for me to preach the best sermon of my life, although the Academy encourages us to work hard and to spend adequate time preparing. It didn’t really matter whether or not my sermon inspired every person who heard it.
What mattered was that I was there at the festival, soaking in the gospel from preachers of all different denominations, ages, and backgrounds.
I got to see how God worked through people who preached using three points and those who were storytellers. I was exposed to the diverse ways 125 young preachers dressed, spoke, used illustrations, and crafted sermons, all while proclaiming God’s good news. That’s what really mattered.
So, my best advice? When you come to the festival in January, revel in the diversity of your fellow preachers, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and under no circumstances scrap your manuscript the night before!