Everything has a first time, even preaching. I remember preaching my first sermon in the Netherlands, I felt so nervous! In the Netherlands we have this tradition that one of the elders shakes your hand before you go up on the pulpit to preach. This isn’t done to wish you luck but instead it symbolises that the elders of the church are responsible for and support the message being preached. (When you leave the pulpit after preaching you receive another hand shake which reinforces the same thing. There is even the possibility you don’t get a handshake…..)
As I approached the pulpit I received my first set of handshakes, after that I was on my own (except God was there of course!), but I felt the pressure was on me alone. I must say it wasn’t too bad, there was no time to analyse so you I just pushed ahead and preached. But that is enough about the Netherlands, here I was ready to do my first sermon in Thai.
I must say I was not very nervous, because: A: They know I am a westerner and so they will have mercy on me. B. because sermons in Thailand are much simpler. This is so they can be easily replicated by Thai Christians. Many of whom have not studied at bible college or university. The basic sermon structure we use is to read from a section of the bible and ask basic questions about the passage to get them thinking, and C: They know I am a westerner, so they will have mercy on me.
It’s a nice feeling that you are able to preach in this simple way after spending a year of hard work studying language, but…. If you start asking questions, they will come with answers! Answers in their vocabulary (which is slightly bigger than mine!) and answers in their dialect (which is Isaan, and is really different from central Thai)… So how do you respond to this challenge? I responded by listening carefully and when I heard an answer I partly understood, I clarified what they were asking by saying “do you mean this?” and the Thai church members responded with a smile “Yes, that’s what I meant!”.
If only churches in the Netherlands were this merciful to their preachers!