Making an uncertain sound

Published 6:31 pm Monday, July 29, 2019

was delivering a Sunday night sermon years ago at the end of a long day. The congregation began laughing for no explicable reason, so I stopped and asked about this.

“You said we had ‘feets’ of clay,” someone said.

We all had a laugh, and then I bore down, “But we all DO have feets of clay!”

I guess everyone that evening was as Dave Barry says, “humor deprived,” so this minor slip seemed like a killer line from a stand-up comic.

I conducted a funeral lately and thought I put a larger-font copy of Romans 8 in my Bible. I said, “Hear the triumphant word of the Apostle Paul,” then I read from my notes a passage from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah about mounting up with wings as eagles. I was temporarily flummoxed by confusing the passages, but no one seemed to notice, or at least no one said anything about it afterward.

I suppose I should be grateful that, as far as I know, I’ve not made more major slips of the tongue in sermons—yet.

Proclaiming the word of God is a weighty responsibility that teachers and preachers don’t take lightly. Some teachers in our church tell me they do lesson preparation at home every night of the week.

A Southern Baptist statesmen a generation ago used to say he spent an hour in study for every minute he spoke from the pulpit. Though his commitment to truth was admirable, no pastor I know has time to do this. Pastors stay busy with visits, administration and unexpected crises, like funerals, and don’t have 30 hours or more for study each week. And most pastors preach or teach two or three times each week, so the math doesn’t compute.

Pastors do try hard to protect a certain amount of study time. If we don’t, other demands intrude, and study is neglected. I have friends who study late at night at home, and others who, like me, find the early morning hours most often uninterrupted. Some pastors have “hide-away” studies where they can “hole up” for sermon preparation, and some ask office staff to “hold” calls at certain hours. Everyone has to find their own way, I suppose.

Paul insisted the “trumpet must not make an uncertain sound” (1 Corinthians 14:8). Modern pastors strive to find truth and speak truth. They also try to make scripture understandable by using the most precise language possible, and the simplest.

If your pastor takes a slip of the tongue, or uses an unfamiliar word or two on occasion, please forgive him. Know that he or she is trying to faithfully communicate the word of life for the benefit of all.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is