My Worst Sermon Ever

They say public speaking is the #1 fear for most people.

That seems silly to me, maybe because I’m comfortable speaking to large groups… but also because I’m much more afraid of guns, sharks and checking my bank account balance.

But on a Wednesday night back in 2008, I stood in front of a large group of teenagers, microphone in hand, and I was petrified.

I have been speaking once or twice to students since the beginning of 2002, not to mention some camps, trips and other events, so I had probably given 700 or 800 sermons before that day. At least a dozen of those sermons were the same topic that I was about to teach through.

It was week #1 of a love/sex/dating series. There were probably a couple hundred kids in the room.

It was absolutely horrible.

  • Problem #1: I was still pretty new on staff, so I didn’t feel like I had much credibility yet. All I had going for me is that I was (usually) funny, and that I looked like Dane Cook.
  • Problem #2: About an hour before we met, another youth group of about 40 said they were going to visit our group that night. They all walked in looking like they wanted to stab me.
  • Problem #3: Our church’s lead pastor decided to come visit us on this night, and this night alone. He stood in the back the entire time, right underneath a light fixture.
  • Problem #4: I titled the sermon, “Taming the Inner Stallion”. I was trying to be funny, but it was a dumb title that didn’t fit. I definitely avoided eye contact with the Lead Pastor while sharing the title.
  • Problem #5: I had no passion whatsoever, and I spoke with no authority. All of the sudden I didn’t even know if I agreed with what I was saying, like, ya know?

At one point I froze up, and I think I made eye contact with every confused kid before I uttered another word…

At that point what I could have (SHOULD HAVE) done is wrapped it up and trusted the Holy Spirit to translate my mess into something helpful.

But no, I am stubborn… and I thought, “I can fix this”.

Thirty minutes later, I wanted to drive to the Huntington Beach pier, cover myself in shark bait, and take a dive. I think I faked a stomach ache and went home immediately.

I say all of this because tomorrow night I’m kicking off a 3-week teaching series on love, sex and dating.

Wish me luck πŸ™‚

My Worst Sermon Ever

They say public speaking is the #1 fear for most people.

That seems silly to me, maybe because I’m comfortable speaking to large groups… but also because I’m much more afraid of guns, sharks and checking my bank account balance.

But on a Wednesday night back in 2008, I stood in front of a large group of teenagers, microphone in hand, and I was petrified.

I have been speaking once or twice to students since the beginning of 2002, not to mention some camps, trips and other events, so I had probably given 700 or 800 sermons before that day. At least a dozen of those sermons were the same topic that I was about to teach through.

It was week #1 of a love/sex/dating series. There were probably a couple hundred kids in the room.

It was absolutely horrible.

  • Problem #1: I was still pretty new on staff, so I didn’t feel like I had much credibility yet. All I had going for me is that I was (usually) funny, and that I looked like Dane Cook.
  • Problem #2: About an hour before we met, another youth group of about 40 said they were going to visit our group that night. They all walked in looking like they wanted to stab me.
  • Problem #3: Our church’s lead pastor decided to come visit us on this night, and this night alone. He stood in the back the entire time, right underneath a light fixture.
  • Problem #4: I titled the sermon, “Taming the Inner Stallion”. I was trying to be funny, but it was a dumb title that didn’t fit. I definitely avoided eye contact with the Lead Pastor while sharing the title.
  • Problem #5: I had no passion whatsoever, and I spoke with no authority. All of the sudden I didn’t even know if I agreed with what I was saying, like, ya know?

At one point I froze up, and I think I made eye contact with every confused kid before I uttered another word…

At that point what I could have (SHOULD HAVE) done is wrapped it up and trusted the Holy Spirit to translate my mess into something helpful.

But no, I am stubborn… and I thought, “I can fix this”.

Thirty minutes later, I wanted to drive to the Huntington Beach pier, cover myself in shark bait, and take a dive. I think I faked a stomach ache and went home immediately.

I say all of this because tomorrow night I’m kicking off a 3-week teaching series on love, sex and dating.

Wish me luck πŸ™‚

Stage Fright

I was with 15,000 other people in Philips Arena for the Catalyst Conference in 2004. The place was packed with pastors, church leaders, business leaders and students. We were all hungry to learn from the best and brightest. Andy Stanley was there, Reggie Joiner, Erwin McManus, Chuck Colson, John Maxwell and many other amazing speakers. All of those guys are primarily speakers, but they’ve all written books too. One guy who was scheduled to teach twice on the main stage was Ted Dekker. He is a best-selling author, and at the time his books were selling better than anyone else’s.

I was excited to hear what he had to say about storytelling. I had my pen ready, my notebook out, and he approached the stage for his 45-minute presentation. He was scheduled to do a 2nd session later that week on that same stage.

Two minutes later he walked off the stage and we never saw him again. He got the worst case of stage fright I’ve ever seen.

He couldn’t finish a sentence. He couldn’t find his thoughts. He couldn’t make sense of his notes. He literally froze.

He’s sold more than 5 million books, but on that day he couldn’t make it 5 minutes on stage.

It made me think about what it’s like for some pastors. We’re expected to be good at everything! Speaking, leading, administration, planning, coaching… you name it. I had no idea what I was doing for my first few years of ministry, but I could speak, so I was in charge! I wasn’t the best leader available, but I was the best talker, so I was the man in command.

It makes me think that some people should just teach, and not lead. Some people should just lead, and not teach.

But when do you suck it up and try again? Should Ted give public speaking another shot? Maybe he already has. Should I try to learn to dance even though that has always ended horribly (in public and in private)? Should I face my fears and my weaknesses, or find my strengths and improve on those?