Like so many people I guess I've got a touch of post-Olympic blues. So inspiring and encompassing were the games that I'm now missing them terribly. Of course I couldn't have kept up my level of engagement indefinitely - I was able to have my holidays at the games and every holiday has to end! Having enjoyed the Olympics so much my mind turns to what I as a preacher might take from those high days. I think especially about the competitors themselves:
- Their commitment was transparent and no onlooker could doubt the personal cost and effort involved. Shouldn't preachers be similarly transparent? Do I look committed to what I'm doing?
- The long-term planning involved was also witnessed to time and time again. The event might only take minutes but the preparation takes years. Doesn't preaching also involve long-term and tenacious preparation? Is my life obviously dedicated to the preaching event?
- The training undergone was not only long-term but also carefully devised and executed. We heard stories of many different disciplines, sometimes a long way from the athletes own, being used to develop skills and concentration. Are we preachers sometimes lacking both in focus and breadth in our our own training? And are we determined enough in training for the homiletic task?
- All embracing determination in performance was also clear in every event. Those who knew they were extremely unlikely to end up in the top three still performed to the highest possible standard. Personal 'bests' were achieved time and time again. How might that attitude be translated to the pulpit? Are we preachers clearly repeatedly trying to better our performance for the good of those with whom we work?
- Fluency in performance was another impressive aspect of every competitor. Certainly there were mistakes occasionally, but generally we were treated to fluent, graceful, and even beautiful renditions of sporting prowess. What had been learnt and developed in training wasn't laboured in the event, but rather had been seemlessly incorporated into what was done. Likewise congregations need fluent even beautiful performances from their preachers. Are we sometimes too laboured and patronizing in how we present? How do we better engage and encompass people by the fluency of what we do?
- Enjoyment was also obvious. Who could fail to be impressed by so many competitors who said something like I haven't won but I have competed to the best that I possible can and I'm blessed by it. Are we preachers giving our all in a way that satisfies ourselves? Are we clearly enjoying the action that God has asked of us?
Olympian preaching is perhaps a metaphor worth pondering. Roll on the Paralympics!