I recently had the opportunity to preach to our church. I worked for several weeks on my sermon and rehearsed it a number of different times, making small edits along the way. One time while I was rehearsing I began to weep. I was alone in a room but somehow as I spoke, I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking through me. I was immersed in the words that I was saying and while I spoke them, they spoke to me. I finished up my practice and thought to myself, this is going to be such a moving sermon. I didn’t mean it arrogantly, as I was fully aware that the Lord had provided the content and words.
But a few days later, when I actually delivered the sermon to our church, something strange happened. I didn’t cry. I didn’t even get a little choked up, I was calm and collected and just talked straight through the thing like I had done it a thousand times. Now on one hand, it felt good, like I had it together and knew what I was doing. But I remember thinking to myself, shouldn’t I have felt more? Shouldn’t I have been more in tune with the power of these words? Was I just reciting a well rehearsed text from memory?
There are times when I’ve had this sentiment leading worship as well. I know how to sing the song, how to execute the plan that I’ve laid out, but it can all feel so void of emotion. I suppose my fear in this is that I don’t want to be insensitive to the Holy Spirit in the moment. I don’t want to be so well rehearsed that I can’t bend and flex with His movement. But I’m finding that He does a lot of speaking, leading, and prompting in the preparation. During the week while I’m sitting on the floor of my office with song sheets spread out all around me, He takes me to new places and teaches me new things that show up in the songs I sing and the words I say on Sunday morning. I’ve often said, and heard other leaders say, “You can’t take people where you haven’t already gone.” But I’m not sure it matters if the Lord took you there at 6:00 am on Sunday morning or 2:00 pm on a Wednesday.
The Spirit of God is like a flame. It moves and dances and sweeps in and then almost disappears before bursting forth again. It will not be tamed, but by grace, it will not be withheld. It is always a gift to sense the presence of the Lord, but it is an act of faith to worship that which we do not always sense. I know that there’s a value in spending time in preparation during the week and there’s a value in the act of corporately worshiping with our church bodies. I intend on continuing to do both and when I have the fortunate opportunity to see the glory of the Lord, even when it shows up in unexpected ways, I will delight in it.