I’m playing as Luigi, determined to defeat my 7-year old son at Mario Kart. The countdown begins, and I start revving my engine. By the time the light hits green I expect to explode out of the gate—passing my son and leaving him behind. Instead, my kart stalls and Luigi starts throwing a tantrum.
I’ve broken the Mario Kart code—you can’t floor it out of the gate. If you try to, you end up burning rubber, creating a lot of smoke, and finding yourself distanced from the people that you are trying to lead. But if you pace yourself and time it just right something beautiful happens.
Preaching is like Mario Kart. You can’t floor it out of the gate.
The Temptation to Floor It
It is understandable why we are tempted to be amped up in our sermon introduction. Most of us spend hours studying a text before we preach it on Sunday morning. On many occasions the message that we are preaching to our congregation has already done a work on our hearts. And so we are excited to preach.
Feeling the weight of the text and seeing the beauty of the gospel in it will undoubtedly stir up a passion in our hearts. Any preacher worth his salt longs to point people to Christ. We want so desperately for people to see what we see, and so we punch the gas as soon as the choir sits down as we ascend the pulpit.
But we cannot afford to do this. It likely took you some time to get excited about the text. It took a bit of build up before you were able to feel the weight of the text. Your listeners are the same way. Zack Eswine is correct:
…the problem is that the people have not had the preparation time given the preacher. They do not yet see the truth that has ignited the preacher’s grand style, so they wonder what has the preacher so worked up. But if the preacher will somewhat restrain while instructing so that all may see the light of the truth clearly, then when illustrating, the mixture of affection and explanation builds…Prophetic emotion describes what springs from a biblical truth rather than from the preacher’s energy, nervousness, or preferences. Truth unfelt and truth overfelt betrays its meaning. (Eswine, Preaching to a Post-Everything World, 129 emphasis mine)
So, learn to pace yourself. Allow your hearers to feel the weight of the text themselves.
It can be painful, but watch one of your sermons some time. As you go through consider the emotion conveyed. Is your emotion matching what is being said at the moment or are you emotional about where you are going?