A few years ago, as a young Presbyterian minister, I started to get a lot of affirmation for my preaching. People were listening, worship attendance was growing, and I was overhearing parishioners describe me as a good preacher. Soon this shaped my pastoral identity and led me to claim preaching as my “thing.”
This prompted me to attend a large preaching conference, to learn from the best in my field. Getting lost in a massive sanctuary full of preachers was paradise for an introvert like me. I relished the anonymity—while also envying the preaching “great” in the pulpit. I wonder if I might ever be invited to be up there, I thought to myself but told no one.
In fact, the only time I interacted with others was when the preacher forced me to. After a few of these “turn to your neighbor” conversations, I found a new pew: a single seat in the far stratosphere of the balcony, where no one was my neighbor.