IN GOOD FAITH
We were sitting across from each other at one of those tiny tables that only the trendiest coffee shops can get away with, in Hope, B.C. It was Tuesday night, the night before the changing of the guard. Between the two of us 11 sermons would be preached through the course of a week at our annual church camp. She was the senior pastor of a large university church, I an associate pastor who had been invited back to the province where I began ministry nine years ago. That night she was preaching her last sermon and I would pick it up the next day. Pastor Chris mentioned she’d looked up some of my sermons online, a notion that was both exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating because it was someone besides my mom watching and terrifying because I knew the next words that were going to come out of my mouth before I could stop them, “Really? I’d love your feedback, I crave constructive criticism.” She smiled, a knowing smile of an experienced pastor. “Are you sure you want to do this now? You’ve got a lot coming up.” “Yes,” I responded naively. “Now’s the best time!”
She was honest with me. The last time someone had been that honest was my professor before she handed me my final grade in homiletics. She asked if I wrote a manuscript, I shuffled around the question and realized that I hadn’t in a while, notes and research can add up to pages and pages, but it does not a manuscript make. “Go back to the basics,” she said and gave me more good stuff, hard truths and then left me with absolute gold. “Now you’re at a place where you need to go deeper, still deeper. Thoughtful, more thoughtful. Clearer still clearer.”
Boom. Just like that. In nine words. How to be a better preacher, and a better person.
“Deeper, still deeper. Thoughtful, more thoughtful. Clearer, still clearer.”
Deeper in our relationships with one another. Deeper into the work we do, being better every day. Deeper and deeper in to new things we can learn about life and God.
Thoughtful about our place in the world, towards one another and how best we can use our lives. Thoughtful about our faith and example.
Clearer about our feelings, speaking truth and being real. About who we are, and what we mean, in kindness, but in honesty. More clearly showing we care.
We can to go back to some of the basics that we’ve lost our way from. In preaching, the basics seems so limiting, so conforming, like it gives you no room for creativity and spontaneity. The basics seem dull. Don’t they? Living with just the basics seems stringent.
We imagine bare walls and monochromatic clothes. We imagine no indulgences or fun times. Instead we try and cram as much as possible, more content into our lives. More content though, seldom means more quality. If in a sermon I try to say everything, I end up saying nothing. In our lives, as we attempt to do everything, could it be that we end up doing nothing? Least of all living with the intentionality that our lives deserve.
What would it mean for you to go back to the basics? Going back to something that you’ve lost your way from? Something so simple it seems silly, but it might be what brings you back from the urgency of doing too much. Basic doesn’t have to be a hindrance; it can be the thing that sets you free. Free to live better. To live deeper. To live more thoughtfully. To live clearly.
Massiel Davila is the pastor of Nurture for the College Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church