I’ve been spending most of the summer doing pulpit supply preaching in various churches. At the beginning of the summer, I was really excited about the opportunity to spend a good chunk of time writing sermons and preaching, but I’m beginning to realize that I may have had too much of a good thing.
If you’re not familiar with the term “pulpit supply,” it’s pretty much the pastor’s equivolent to substitute teaching. Just about every Sunday, I’ve gone to a different church that either doesn’t have a pastor, or where the regular pastor is on vacation. Most of these churches are in relatively remote parts of Pennsylvania where I’ve never been before. At the start of the summer, I really enjoyed this work. I loved spending the time studying Scripture and writing sermons, and I really enjoyed traveling around and seeing parts of Pennsylvania that I’ve never seen before. The experience has also been pretty affirming of my call to ministry. After any sermon, you almost always get the typical comments (i.e. “I enjoyed your message” or “Nice sermon”), but I also received some feedback from people that I will cherish for a long time. (My favorite: “When you preached, I heard Jesus speaking.”)
Despite these good things… the gig is getting old. I never realized how difficult and draining it is to write sermons for congregations you barely know. Part of sermon preparation is a process of discerning what God wants to say to your particular congregation, and it’s really hard to discern that when you know nothing about that congregation. It’s also draining worshipping with strangers on a weekly basis. Usually, I enjoy meeting new people in new churches, and seeing new parts of the body of Christ, but lately I’ve been finding myself longing to be a part of a community and not just the guest of a different community each week.
That’s why I’m REALLY excited for what’s coming this week. This Thursday, the seed group for the New Church Development in Squirrel Hill will meet for the first time. It’s just going to be an evening of fellowship where we can all get to know one another before we all dive into Bible Study, worship and life-in-Christ together, but it’s also the beginning of this new chapter in my life and the lives of several others.
I’m ready for this change. The pseudo-itinerant ministry of pulpit supply preaching was fun for a season, but I fear that season may have ended a week or two before I intended it to. It’s time to devote energy to one community and see how the Holy Spirit forms and shapes it into a temple for the living Christ.