Christie and I are up in Tacoma this weekend. We needed a “Lindsey and Noah fix” and decided to head north before plunging completely into the holiday season. It’s a season for which I am excited. Celebrating Jesus as a church family is so very special. I’m praying we get to introduce the Savior to some new folks this year and see lives changed. It all officially begins next Sunday night with Celebrate Thankfulness. There will be pie. Need I say more?

This morning, we continue our Invisible series. Sort of. We explore an invisible event from Exodus. We welcome back to the pulpit my favorite preaching prof from seminary, Dr. Sunukjian. Fortunately for us, he’s a SoCal resident these days and easily agreed to return (on short notice) to our pulpit.

I’ve told the story before, but it bears repeating. Dr. Sunukjian came to Dallas Seminary after I had been there a while. Back in my day, it took four (long) years to get your degree, and he came to the pastoral ministry department right as I was starting my preaching classes.

You sort of need to know that I dreaded those classes. My first week at seminary I panicked at the thought of preaching in any setting. My conclusion: I’m outta here. The thought seriously crossed my mind. But home was a long way from Dallas, so I stuck it out.

By the time I arrived at my third year, the prospect of preaching wasn’t quite as intimidating, but it was still stressful. We preached in front of a camera. Ten minutes max. No notes. With the prof in a soundproof booth at the back making comments into a microphone as you preached. Then we had to get the tape and play it on a VCR before the next class. Painful. Old school.

You also got a written review, where your outline was deconstructed, and the prof could make comments. Ouch. I knew I wasn’t a great preacher. I’m fairly intuitive and could figure that out. But in Dr. Sunukjian’s preaching class, I got some hope.

It was the words scrawled above my critique, almost as an afterthought which changed my perspective and gave me hope. He wrote: You are an ok preacher, but your people will listen to you because you have a way of delivery that builds trust in you. I’m honestly not sure how accurate the first phrase was, but I’ve never forgotten the ending and its hope. Even if it was just a glimmer! Maybe someone would want to listen to me preach. Some day.

Perhaps it’s taken me 40 years to live up to that potential he saw, but I am the pastor I am today in large measure because of his ministry back in my seminary days. I learned how to pastor. I learned how to dunk (aka baptize someone). I learned that I could preach, even if it would take some time and effort.

My point today? Give some hope to those around you. Be an encourager. Sow it broadly. People listen.