Shooing Flies in the Pulpit

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    I had a strange experience recently.

    As I preached our 7:45 Sunday worship service, a fly buzzed up to the pulpit. He landed near my Bible. He jumped on the microphone. He sat on my sh
    oulder. That thing was everywhere! The little fly was a big distraction.

    I have preached in many churches where a
    lot of distracting things happen in the service because of open windows. But there are no windows in the church where I serve. So I thought, “Where did this thing come from?”

    More importantly, I hate bugs! Loathe them. Any of them. All of them, particularly flies. They freak me out. But there I was, sharing the pulpit with a fly that would not go away. You would have thought it was scheduled to preach and I took his spot.

    Somehow, I made it through the sermon. I went to preach at our second location. Then I returned to preach our 10:45 worship service. And as I began my sermon, that same fly (It could not have been another fly, could it?) made his way to the pulpit again.

    After church, my wife and children – who sit on the third row – asked why I did not just shoo away the fly. The real question is, how did I get through two sermons without fighting that fly? Can you imagine what it would have looked like with me trying to swat a fly in the pulpit as I preached? I would rather preach with a fly on my shoulder than be the star of that YouTube video.

    To be honest, I have had to shoo flies in the pulpit many times. If you are a preacher, so have you. No, not literal flies (I hope). But preachers regularly have to through various distractions.

    It may be a small distraction that only you notice. Or it may be a big distraction that captures the entire congregation’s attention. It can be something going on within you that cause you to lose focus. Or it can be something going on around you that makes it hard for you or the congregation to concentrate.

    • You are not feeling well.
    • The sermon you are preaching is unfinished.
    • You had a harsh exchange of words with your wife last night that now comes back to your mind.
    • You are tired.
    • Someone’s cell phone starts ringing. And it ain’t Jesus calling!
    • The service did not go off as planned.
    • Children are walking.
    • That deacon is sleep. Again.
    • The room is too hot or too cold.
    • That person who seems to go to the restroom during the second point of your sermon every week is going to the restroom.
    • The member you are concerned about did not show up.
    • Someone caught you in the hallway to tell you something they should have told you after the service or could have told you any time during the week.
    • This particularly sermon is weighing heavily on you.
    • Or a fly is buzzing around your head as you preach.

    There will inevitably be flies to shoo away as you preach.  What do you do?

    As the nagging fly danced around my head, I kept preaching. I stood to preach that day because I had something to say – a biblical message to proclaim. I believed the Lord has assembled us to hear that message. I would not, could not let a fly get in the way of the message the people of God needed to hear. So I kept preaching through the distraction.

    As I preached, I also prayed. I prayed that God would make that fly go away! I also prayed the request I have made countless of times over the years, as some distraction threatened to derail my sermon. In desperate situations, the prayer I am making in my head may slip out audibly…

                Lord, please hold my mind as I preach your word.

    The Lord answered my prayer, as he is faithful to do. I finished the message in spite of roaring lion… I mean, nagging fly.

    This is the best advice I can give you, when a fly attacks your sermon. Keep preaching. And keeping praying. Pray as you preach. Preach as you pray. Whether a fly is in your face or a dove is on your shoulder, keep preaching and keep praying.


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.