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Sunday After Sunday

2007 February 18
by Mike

I got a note from a friend of mine on the West Coast who’s been asked to preach next weekend. He — a guy who regularly does stuff that would make me shudder! — said it’s one of the most difficult things he’s ever asked to do. He asked how I’ve done it week after week, year after year, decade after decade.

The question made me tired. That IS a lot of sermons.

I started fulltime in 1982 with a wonderful church in Wilmington, NC, that gave me the freedom to grow into the job. And since then, it’s been Sunday after Sunday (with plenty of breaks), year after year, decade after decade.

Sometimes I think I’m about out of gas. Are there older preachers out there? Have you had the same feeling? Sometimes I think I’ve given what I have to give.

Don’t feel sorry for me. It’s a privilege. I get to lead the church in the Lord’s Prayer. I get to lay my hands on babies to represent the church, saying, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be on you forever.” I get to see the faces of people as the word of God is spoken in their midst. I see the tears of hope-within-grief; I see the yawns from exhaustion. I get to sit on row one, right in front of Bob and Roye Sue. I’m permitted to listen to people remember at times of death. I’m still in the sanctuary as the last words are spoken over coffins by children and spouses.

I can’t ever imagine regretting all these Sundays. And years. And decades.

27 Responses leave one →
  1. drjimwhite permalink
    February 18, 2007

    Just after I think I’ve preached the worst sermon ever, someone comes up saying it touched their heart in some way. I never ceased to be amazed to see how God uses the words of a fool like me to touch hearts. That’s why I never tire of it. My body gets physically tired, my mind mentally tired, but I never tire of seeing what God does. Keep preaching, Mike. You inspire me everytime I hear your passion. I wish I could hear you every Sunday like I used to.

  2. February 18, 2007

    Mike –

    Let me encourage you in all you do. Everything you do is a great blessing to a lot of other people, including those of us who read you blog, but cannot see you in person.

    I have to share this. I am 61 years old and have been a Christian my entire life because of my parents (my dad was an elder in Abernathy, Texas and one of the founders of Sunset School of Preaching in the early 60s) and was baptized when I was 12. That was nearly 50 years ago, but in the past few days because of my studying, praying, listening to sermons on cassette taps and online of some of my dear blogging friends, I have had a wonderful renewal of my faith.

    Despite my many physical limitations and despite my age, I am very joyful and happy to be a Christian and want to share that joy with everyone I know. I have already shared it with my blessed mom and my husband, Tom, who is away for five days and can’t wait to share it with even more people I meet along the way each day.

    Thanks, Mike, for all you do even through decades now. You DO make a difference in people’s lives and through all of your work. Carry on and don’t get weary in well doing.

    Cheers & Blessings to you all today! Dee

  3. Klint Pleasant permalink
    February 18, 2007

    Keep preaching Mike.

  4. February 18, 2007

    Not that I’m an older preacher, but I can certainly relate to the feeling of being worn out. I have the feeling it’s one of those things that goes in cycles. And, then eventually when it gets in a rut, then it’s time for a new season in life. I pray you’ll have the wisdom to know when it’s just being weary and when it might be time to do something different. And, that whatever you do is done to the glory of God.

  5. Joel G. Quile permalink
    February 18, 2007

    Mike, its time to hang ‘em up bro. Yeah, I’m sure of it. I think the Lord is calling you to retire and take up golf. I’m feeling like you, Diane, & Chris need to move to Trophy Club and join the Lake Cities family. Yeah, that’s it. You need to eat Pappasitos’s and make guacamole and…I don’t know…maybe just pour into a younger preacher and be available to answer all his questions. And go to Ranger games and maybe be like a staff elder or something.

    Yep, hang ‘em up Mike. I’ll call U-Haul!

  6. February 18, 2007

    Mike, I feel like the Spirit is still speaking through you so strongly. I know that it is wearying to do that every week but know that I am always moved or challenged or made to think deeper than I even want sometimes. I love your honesty. I love watching and hearing you blessing babies. I love your wisdom at funerals. I love your emotion..like this morning when you spotted Kyle and Bernita out there. There is so much about you, Mike Cope, that is extraordinary but what I love the most about you is what is ordinary. Keep allowing that ordinary man to be guided by the Spirit…I’m still listening…please keep praying for the gift of preaching.

  7. February 18, 2007

    I am tired of my job too. I guess most people are tired. You seem to be good at what you do so hang in there.

    I would bet migrant farm workers are tired. They keep plugging along though. These people are some of my heroes.

    No point to my comment; just tired these days.

  8. February 18, 2007

    Somehow you make preaching look so easy and natural. You have a rare gift. But one that requires a lot of work too.

    When I hear you preach at Zoe it is like watching really good figure skaters. They are so graceful and flawless, but what we don’t see is the many hours in practice and the sprained ankles along the way.

    Thanks for giving us a peek behind the scenes to your humanity that gets tired like the rest of us!

  9. February 18, 2007

    Sorry, I drew a blank on baseball analogies!

  10. Jordan Hubbard permalink
    February 18, 2007

    Amy, let me help. Your preaching is like watching Roy Jones Jr. fight. It is graceful and flawless, and packs a punch, and we don’t see the practice and hard work you do for it. That is much more manly.

    If I might be so bold, I would covet your prayers because I am beginning a preaching ministry this week and the challenge is so daunting.

  11. February 18, 2007

    Yes, Mike I understand. For me 33 years of an average of 100 new Sermons per year.

    27 years to the same group of people in Denver.

    What has helped me is
    -the brothers and sisters praying for me.
    -Knowing that this is what I was cut out to do.

    I keep a couple of quotes in my day timer to re-read often
    From a Bobby Darin song,
    “People say I was made for this,
    nothing else would I trade for this
    and just think I get paid for this.”

    If you find what you love,
    To do it is amazing.
    If you find someone to pay you to do it,
    It’s a miracle.
    James Patterson, novelist

    One last thing has kept my battery charged daily.
    Reading a Chapter of the gospels each day matched with a Pslam reading every day.

    I could identify with all you said. Thank you Mike for being open-hearted with your friends. It helps the rest of us preachers to be more open.
    Love,
    Larry Wishard

  12. Anonymous permalink
    February 18, 2007

    And if you work in a congregation that expects you to teach both Adult Bible Classes (Sunday and Wednesday) and you preach two sermons on Sunday counting the two weeks that you get off for vacation that averages out to 200 new lessons a year.

    Do we want to open the self-righteous discussion about preachers borrowing from other preachers again?

  13. February 19, 2007

    It isn’t you, Mike. It is God working through you. He has all the strength to carry you through. He will give you enough for each day. You are a wonderful servant. God is praised and glorified through what you do week in and week out. Don’t despair. God is good. HE will carry you to the end.

  14. February 19, 2007

    Thanks for these wonderful words. Larry – your words were a blessing.

    Anonymous, we didn’t have a discussion about preachers borrowing from other preachers. We had a discussion about plagiarism. If you don’t know the difference, I’m glad I don’t sit in your congregation.

    It’s not looked on highly in business, in high schools, or in college. It just seems that we shouldn’t favor it in church.

  15. Larry James permalink
    February 19, 2007

    Mike, I think God changes the world through people who have something to say. Then, there are people who have to say something. I suppose God uses those people too. You are definitely among the former and that is why God continues to use you so effectively, even when you are tired.

  16. February 19, 2007

    Leadership Journal is doing an issue on this very topic in the near future. See Out of Ur, Caring for the Inner Pastor, for thoughts on this topic.

    http://tinyurl.com/27kopq

    I’ve included the blog post here since it’s not too long.

    February 15, 2007
    Caring for the Inner Pastor

    What practices keep your soul fueled for ministry?
    Dallas Willard has written about the importance of soul care for those of us in ministry. He says,

    The call of God to minister the gospel is a high honor and a noble challenge. It carries with it unique opportunities as well as special burdens and dangers for members of the clergy as well as their families. These burdens can be fruitfully born and the dangers triumphantly overcome. But that will not happen unless the minister’s “inner person” (2 Cor. 4:16) is constantly renewed by accessing the riches of God and His kingdom in the inner person.
    Willard’s words are beautifully optimistic, but how exactly does a minister “access the riches of God and His kingdom in the inner person”? I don’t recall that class being offered in seminary. Perhaps that’s why spiritual directors are becoming so popular, but a good spiritual director can be difficult to find. It’s not as easy as putting a personal ad in the paper:

    SWM (Soul Weary Minister) seeks SMF (Spiritually Mature Friend) to help my inner person access God’s riches and experience triumph in my soul. I like long prayer walks in the park, guided sabbatical retreats, and reciting the daily offices. My turn offs are elder board meetings, church budgets, and Mrs. Clark’s mystery casserole. Please respond quickly, my soul needs urgent care.

    Because the pastor’s soul is a vital component of ministry, and caring for it can be a challenging responsibility, we’ll be tackling the subject in an upcoming issue of Leadership. What keeps our souls fueled for ministry? What bleeds them dry? And what can we do to maintain our soul’s health and vitality? These are questions many of us might ask a spiritual director, but they are also questions pastors should be asking each other.

    So, we are inviting you to share the practices you engage to keep your soul healthy and equipped for ministry. Tell us about the practice, how it nourishes your soul, and why other pastors should consider it for themselves. Be sure to include your name, your church, and your city. We’ll be compiling the list of soul-feeding spiritual practices in the spring issue of Leadership.

    Peace.

  17. David U permalink
    February 19, 2007

    A double AMEN to Larry’s comment!!

    DU

  18. February 19, 2007

    Larry Wishard … cool quotes. Sometimes you wonder if what you do is worth it… it is.

    Besides I guess after all that time you and Mike have preached, you could just re-preach your sermons ever couple of years.

    Just kidding!

  19. February 19, 2007

    The thought that came to mind was the phrase, “A long obedience in the same direction.” Our culture continually tries to convince us that something new is better than what we are doing and doing well, that we are limited in God’s and our ability to continually reinvent ourselves within what God has led us to do.

  20. February 19, 2007

    Trey,
    Good point.
    When you do expository to topical.
    32 Years.

    You repreach the text and repeat,but to you with fresh study and fresh context it is never the same. For example.

    Luke 13.1-9 before 911 versus after 911 if you are a preacher using context about who died when the towers fell and why?

  21. Beth permalink
    February 19, 2007

    As a minister’s child, and as a friend to other minister’s children, I understand your weariness. I think your positive reflection on decades of service is good–not heaping accolades on your own head, but digging into the meat of ministry and what it has meant to you. I believe preachers and pastors can use positive ministry experiences as a healing salve, a jolt of inspiration, and a springboard into the future. However, I do think churches tend to shoot their wounded (especially in the situation of ministers leaving a church or being fired–but this is not the time/place for that discussion I don’t think).

  22. February 19, 2007

    In light of our conversation yesterday, maybe this applies.

    http://www.rbc.org/utmost/index.php

    Hopefully, it’s meant to encourage, not discourage.

    My spiritual life would have been poorer in California and Texas had you not been the open, dynamic teacher/preacher you are. Bless you for being faithful to the gift of preaching the LORD pours through you each time you stand before us.

    Your reaction to seeing Kyle and Bernita was such a touching moment. It seemed as though you wanted to stop preaching, go to them and hug them, not continue. But continue you did, blessing each of us. Thank you, Mike for being you!

    And to all you preachers, from a PB [brat], each of you has your gift, and our LORD’s word says even your feet are beautiful, you that bring us the Good News so faithfully!

  23. February 19, 2007

    Mike,
    Let me encourage you brother by letting you know that you are making a differnce by the message off grace that you have proclaimed to thousands upon thousands. Mike, you are letting people really know who God is, that he is a God who is merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, and grace. You are making a differing in the churches of Christ across the country. Churches of Christ are now becoming known as grace oriented, compassionate, loving. You are significate part of that change. I want to thank you for putting that “Holy Hunger” in countless ministers and students lives. God bless you and your ministry in a powerful way brother.

  24. February 19, 2007

    I’m 31, and when I was 21 I figured I’d now be living in Brazil with a lot of sermons and ministry under my belt. Life took a different path than what I expected, but here I am. Writing sermons on a full minister’s schedule is demanding, but it was some of my most fulfilling time in ministry (besides visiting/”calling”). In the U.S. I used the Revised Common Lectionary just to keep me from preaching on my favorite topics all the time. Maybe someday soon I can get back into that kind of ministry.

  25. February 19, 2007

    We young folks really appreciate all you have done as well. Keep up the good work and encouragement of so many people.

  26. February 19, 2007

    I’ve been preaching for about 13 years. I’ve tried to quit and go into something else a few times, but God won’t let me.

    So I just keep preaching…..doing the best I can…..

  27. Nancy Patterson permalink
    February 22, 2007

    Mike, I’ve been hearing God’s word spoken through you for maybe 15 years now. I promise you, if I am not weeping (or laughing) someone near me is. Your prayers for the gift of preaching are SO answered, glory be to God! The thing I have loved most about you is your sensitivity….you are able to speak the truth in love. I always think that you are holding God’s word in the palms of your hands and allowing us to taste…retreat…and return for more when God has prepared our hearts for another meal or morsel.

    Thank you for your open heart and your sincerity….take a break, retreat, rest and let God fill you up again because I believe He will, but please don’t give up! I’m older than you (a little) and sometimes I feel weary too….but we have miles to go before we sleep so hang in there Preacher Mike. You are loved :)

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