I preached for the first time in my whole life last night.
Well, as in, I got behind the podium, at a church, with a bow tie on, sermon outline in hand, and I spoke for the first time in front of people. I’ve “preached” many of times– just ask my friends. Buzz words include: Oregon Ducks, Country Music, Syria, Taylor Swift, etc. Anyway– preaching last night?
It was freaking fantastic.
It was one of the few things I’ve ever done in my life where I felt totally and completely in place. There have been two others of these types of occurences. The first would be playing drums. As a kid, I always wanted a drum kit to play. I loved beating on things, and I was super fidgety. I’ve always had natural rhythm, so I designed a very low quality drum kit out of notebooks on the floor of my room. I took my CD player, and I played along to songs on the various CDs we had around my house– songs like Dig by Incubus and My Sacrifice by Creed. Eventually, when I was in the 6th grade, we moved to what is now my hometown– Kings Mountain, NC. At the new house, we had just enough room to stick a drumset in my room. And bingo! I got a drum kit (mom and dad were so excited…). I, literally,– sorry for this sounding a little conceited— could just play, like immediately. For some reason, God gave me the ability to bang on large cylinders with sticks in some type of pattern, naturally. Now, of course, I have gotten much better since I was 12. It’s not like I was or am some type of professional. But there has never been any real learning curve for me. I’ve never taken lessons. I don’t know the first thing about techniques or brands or hardware. I just played and played and played. I play by ear. But I could and can actually play. It is 100% my only natural talent. I’m not good at anything else. God took this talent of mine and stuck me behind the drums at my church. There, I’ve been able to serve week-in and week-out for different services at church over the course of 4 years or so. I’ve always felt closest to the Lord behind the kit. It’s how I’ve always served. I’ve also made tons of noise and broke a drum head or two during my career. Drums are a personality– loud, obnoxious, high energy, take up space, cause sweating. To those of you that know me, take this description, apply it to a human, and ask yourself, “Does this exemplify Cooper?” Personally, I’ve always felt like a human drum kit, and if you don’t think so, don’t tell me– I’ll be devastated.
The second thing that has always made me feel like I’m where I need to be is in Kings Mountain. I absolutely love my hometown. A lot of people don’t like it for everything that it isn’t or that it doesn’t have. I love Kings Mountain for everything that it is and that it has. For one, it’s the home of the church that has ultimately raised me. First Baptist Church Kings Mountain has been a truly incredible place to grow in the Lord. God is doing big things at FBCKM. Kings Mountain is where I really kind of found who I needed to be. Kings Mountain is where I met my friends, who are absolutely incredible. Kings Mountain is where the Shorties (my family) have really self-actualized, meaning, reached our full potential as a family unit and as individuals. Everyone (even Gabe) is currently living out their own little American Dream. Kings Mountain helped to create that for us. It’s big enough to have life and small enough not to take life over. It’s also big enough to have exit signs on I-85. I can see my high school from my driveway, where I got a fantastic high school education– despite the fact that KMHS had the worst HVAC unit in the history of the human race. I know someone everywhere I go, and everything important is 10 minutes away or less. High school football in Kings Mountain is just like football in movies. The whole town gets involved. The people in Kings Mountain are incredible, and I would never trade any of the little town for the world. And check these facts: we’ve got a CVS and Walgreens within 300 yards of each other, 2 McDonald’s, a Waffle House, a mini-Walmart, a state park, a YMCA, and this little dump of a place called Yamato’s. The building looks like crap… the food tastes like a dream. And Kings Mountain has a multitude of other commodities. I love it. It’s my favorite place to be. I hope one day the Lord puts me back there. I also hope one day we get a doughnut shop.
… I also hope one day we stop doing super inconvenient road construction right in the middle of town.
Being behind the podium last night, sharing a message that Jesus helped me write was nothing short of amazing. I felt myself really flowing and really speaking the Lord’s words, not my own. I got called to ministry when I was 15 (for the full story, check out my blog Ring, Ring, Ring). I have been waiting, ultimately, since then to have the opportunity I had last night. I loved it. It was so fun. And truly a process that grew me tremendously just these last 3 weeks during my preparation. But it also revealed something very crucial to me that seems elementary in nature.
It was all God.
I have wanted to preach for a long time. I have a notebook, literally, that has about 5-10 real sermon outlines in it. Are they good? No, I doubt it. But I’ve been waiting on my chance to take the pulpit and speak. God hasn’t given me that until last night, though. Why? For two reasons:
- I didn’t deserve it.
- I wasn’t ready.
I didn’t deserve to preach until last night. I was always looking at Cooper wanting to preach, not God asking Cooper to preach. It was more about me actually wanting to simply be up front and talk. God placed me in Bellview Baptist last night behind that podium. God wrote that outline. Cooper did not. This whole time, I have been only looking inward, thinking I had all of the tools and the knowledge to get up there and tell people the Truth. All I wanted to do was get my chance to do what I wanted. It took a long period of losing that selfish desire (by being humble enough to take spiritual coaching when I felt I was too mature for it) for God to throw this opportunity at me. I didn’t expect it to come when and where it did– but God gave it to me on His terms.
I wasn’t ready to preach until last night. I quoted some verses I had memorized. I made some references from other parts of the Bible. I told some personal stories about things I had been going through. I shared some things the Lord has revealed to me. My thoughts flowed fairly smoothly. It made sense (at least, that’s what I was told). 6 months, 8 months, a year, 3 years ago– I would have never done that or been able to do that. God has been working on me. I’m lucky He never let me preach till last night because I would have been dead in the water, and I would have probably ruined Christianity for somebody (or they would have taken my jokes wrong). There is no possible way last night would have happened without God’s provision and God’s equipping me with the tools and the desires to do what I did. And those things have only been around for a little bit— certainly not since I was called to ministry.
I chased after the Lord. I chased hard. I wanted so badly to make that sermon last night perfect. And it wasn’t. I’ll never preach one that is perfect because I never will be. But what I did last night was speak for Jesus, in light of Jesus, because of Jesus. No part of me exists because of anything other than Him. And this whole first sermon experience has humbled me. It’s showed me the true sovereignty of the Son of Man.
My sermon last night was, honestly, average. I know it was. But my God is not. And my future is certain. He called me to ministry, and the pre-season is over. There is still a long road ahead, paved with battling sin, going to seminary (so when I talk about the Bible, it’s at least somewhat credible), and trying desperately– but failing– to be like Jesus. I’m officially on the roster now. It’s game time.
It’s Sermon Szn.
Chase after the Lord and watch the blessings fall.