Finding a Part of Myself that I had Lost

I preached my first sermon when I was 17.  The youth group at my church put on the sunrise service for Easter Sunday.  Afterwards my senior pastor asked me if I’d be interested in preaching again.  I’m not sure what possessed him to ask that of a cocky 17 year old. That summer I interned with him and preached twice more.

Fast-forward eight years.  As a Protege at NCC I was asked to serve as one of two campus pastors for our largest location.  I was honored, and while I was pretty good at some parts of the role, I wasn’t so hot at speaking in front of the congregation.

I wasn’t preaching, but I handled the rest of the up-front pastoral duties: delivering announcements, praying, giving the benediction, receiving the offering, administering communion, all of that.  I didn’t have a lot of public speaking experience, so it took a few minutes to calm my nerves and get into a groove, which obviously never happened as none of those things took longer than five minutes.  At the same time, I was struggling with mild depression, which made the job of pastoring exceptionally hard.  To top it off, part way through my eight-month tenure I got some (probably deserved) negative feedback that absolutely killed my confidence.

That was two years ago.  After that I was pretty hesitant about getting back in front of people.  I had been far more confident at 17 than I was at 27.

My job now is such that even though I’m a pastor I could avoid public speaking if I tried and have to some degree, but I’ve been making an effort to get back on the horse. Last fall I spoke at one of our Alpha classes and addressed a gathering of NCC leaders.  In January I did some vision casting to our leaders at our annual Leadership Retreat.  In February I emceed a men’s event.  In March I gave two theology lectures, and this May I recorded a couple of short teaching videos.

I’ve felt like I’d been getting better and gaining confidence but still had pretty significant doubts and tended to be somewhat stressed in the hours leading up to speaking.

Until Saturday.

Last Saturday was our summer Leadership Summit.  It was probably the calmest I’ve ever been before speaking.  I was given a six minute slot to talk about the rhythms of a leader’s life, and for probably the first time in my life I got off stage and said to myself “Nailed it.”

My evaluations of my own speaking tend to be filled with self-doubt and questioning, but I felt good about both what I had said and how I said it.

It’s been a long process, a process of getting comfortable in my own skin, a quality I had at one point but had long lost.

So, what’s the take away for you?  I don’t know exactly.  This is one of those insecurities that I need to grow through as a leader.  Maybe it’s encouragement to you to keep at it, whatever it is.  Maybe it’s me being honest about my own self-doubt.  Maybe now you know me a bit better than you did before.