I was humbled yesterday. We visited a church on Sunday, and it was one of the worst sermons I've heard in a long time - we talked about it on the way home in the car, I complained about it to Ryan, I lamented the miserable quality of preaching in the world today, etc. Woe woe woe. If only it had been me preaching...
Then yesterday afternoon, I sat with a young woman who had also been in that same church on Sunday. And the first thing she asked (gushingly), was: "What did you think of that sermon on Sunday? Wasn't that great???" I simply responded (lamely), "Well tell me what you liked about it..."
And she did. And it was good. She heard the gospel, perhaps in spite of the preacher. God met her on Sunday, in spite of the inadequacies of the medium, or even the messenger. And that was both encouraging and convicting to me.
Convicting, because far too often I put my confidence in my own ability - if I preach well enough, God will use it. And that's simply not the case. God uses who he darn well feels like using. In his timeframe, not ours.
But this was encouraging too, because it means that even here in Missoula where there's not a whole lot of good preaching, I am reminded that God is still alive and well and working - HE is the real shepherd of his sheep, and I have a feeling there are a lot more of them around than we sometimes think. Yeah, they're scattered across the countryside, out in all sorts of dangerous places where they really shouldn't be, and a lot of them have sheep crap smeared all over them... but they're alive, and they're not alone. God is caring for them. And he won't let them go.
At the end of the day, our effectiveness in ministry never rests on us (no matter how gifted, prepared, or excellent we happen to be) - it always depends on God. And that's a good thing, even if it is humbling.