When I was first asked to write this article, I hesitated because the theme “Change our World” sounded too grandiose. I mean, although I did have a great Pastoral Ministry Internship experience this summer, it was only 10 weeks (it didn’t quite go past the honeymoon stage). But as I was considering this, it occurred to me that though I might not have made a world-impacting change, I can share how I myself have been changed (formed and shaped) by this experience.
I went into my summer internship seeking growth in preaching/teaching, and I had the opportunity to preach 9 times (5 in the morning service and 4 in the evening service). This meant that except for the first week, I had to preach one sermon every week. To be honest, I did not know what I was getting myself into. I literally spent 30-40+ hours, sometimes even close to 50 hours, preparing my sermons each week, and this was not the only thing I did (it helped that I am not yet married). I was not doing this because I am a good student obeying our professors’ advice to spend these many hours to prepare our sermons (I thought their advice to spend 40 hours on a sermon was unrealistic) but because I really needed all of those hours to complete each sermon! Although I would like to say that I enjoyed every hour of it, that would be a lie.
On some weeks, I wrestled with the text and my sermon until late Saturday evening. This felt terrible because I had to preach the next day, and I was still not ready! In those moments: I found myself pulling my hair, lifting my fist up and shouting, “God, why are you doing this to me! I didn’t sign up for this!” and a few minutes later, I was kneeling down on the floor and begging for His help and mercy. Did this help? In terms of relieving my stress, yes, definitely. In terms of finishing my sermon: maybe, at least I would like to think so. I woke up early on Sunday mornings to go through my manuscript again and to practice, and on some weeks, it was during these last few moments where I had a major breakthrough.
Then on Sundays, I would join the worship team, lead the liturgy and congregational prayer, and walk up to the pulpit to preach. Being an introvert and having quite a bit of anxiety when it comes to public speaking, I can barely remember what happened during the worship services, especially when I was up and leading. Yet, after each service, people would come to me and say that God spoke to them through my sermon. Some of them even showed tears, and I would be like, “why?” (obviously in my head). It wasn’t because my empathy was running on empty. These were folks who have lived at least twice or thrice longer than me. They could have dismissed me as being young and inexperienced. And yet, people affirmed and encouraged my call to ministry. When I visited people’s homes, some would even talk about the sermon they heard from weeks before.
As dreadful as the process of composing the sermon was, these conversations were what brought me back to the study every week, out of a grateful heart that God would use a person like me to serve and speak to His people.
This realization did not make the sermon writing process any easier, but it made it more meaningful. And surprisingly, this is the most important lesson that I learned this summer that changed me and is continuing to do so: God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is truly at work changing me, changing us, changing our world, and it is a privilege, a tremendous privilege, to be a part of it.