Sunday's coming...this is part of the refrain that Tony Campolo -- the well-known sociologist, preacher, and public speaker -- uses in his most famous sermon. But, according to Campolo, he didn't come up with this line. It's actually a line that he first heard another preacher use one Good Friday.
As Campolo tells it:
One Good Friday there were seven of us preaching back to back. When it was my turn to preach, I rolled into high gear, and I want to tell you, I was good. The more I preached, the more the people in that congregation turned on, and the more they turned on, the better I got. I got better and better and better. I got so good that I wanted to take notes on me! At the end of my message, the congregation broke loose. I was absolutely thrilled to hear the hallelujahs and their cries of joy. I sat down next to my pastor and he looked at me with a smile. He reached down with his hand and squeezed my knee. “You did all right!” he said.
I turned to him and asked, “Pastor, are you going to be able to top that?”
The old man smiled at me and said, “Son, you just sit back, 'cause this old man is going to do you in!”
I didn't figure that anybody could have done me in that day. I had been so good. But the old guy got up, and I have to admit, he did me in – with one line. For an hour and a half he preached one line over and over again. For an hour and a half he stood that crowd on its ear with just one line: “It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!” That statement may not blow you away, but you should have heard him do it. He started his sermon real softly by saying, “It was Friday; it was Friday and my Jesus was dead on the tree. But that was Friday, and Sunday's coming!”
One of the deacons yelled, “Preach, brother! Preach!” It was all the encouragement he needed. He came louder as he said, “It was Friday and Mary was cryin' her eyes out. The disciples were runnin' in every direction, like sheep without a shepherd. But that was Friday, and Sunday's coming!” People in the congregation were beginning to pick up the message. Women were waving their hands in the air and calling softly, “Well, well.” Some of the men were yelling, “Keep going! Keep going!”
The preacher kept going. He picked up the volume still more and shouted, “It was Friday. The cynics were lookin' at the world and sayin', 'As things have been so they shall be. You can't change anything in this world; you can't change anything.' But those cynics didn't know that it was only Friday. Sunday's coming!”
“It was Friday! And on Friday, those forces that oppress the poor and make the poor to suffer were in control. But that was Friday! Sunday's coming!
“It was Friday, and on Friday Pilate thought he had washed his hands of a lot of trouble. The Pharisees were struttin' around, laughin' and pokin' each other in the ribs. They thought they were back in charge of things, but they didn't know it was only Friday! Sunday's coming!”
He worked that one phrase for a half-hour, then an hour, then an hour and a quarter, then an hour and a half. Over and over he came at us, “It's Friday, but Sunday's coming! It's Friday, but Sunday's coming! It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!”
By the time he came to the end of the message, I was exhausted. He had me and everybody else so worked up that I don't think any of us could have stood it much longer. At the end of his message he just yelled at the top of his lungs, “It's Friday!” and all five hundred of us in that church yelled back with one accord, “But Sunday's coming!”
Now, I have to tell you, I love that story and I love the line, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!". Truth be told, I've actually told that story and used that line in my own Easter sermons a few times over the years.
But as much as I love that line and the way that Tony Campolo uses it in this story, the words "Sunday's coming" have taken on a completely different meaning in my life over the last twelve years.
So these days, when I hear someone say, "Sunday's coming!" I don't think about Tony Campolo's sermon. I think about the reality that every preacher faces. What's that reality?
No matter how good your last sermon was...Sunday's coming. No matter how crazy your week is this week...Sunday's coming. No matter how many hospital visits you have to make, no matter how many funerals you have to officiate...Sunday's coming.
And that's a reality that you never really appreciate until you preach almost every week.
Several years ago, Thom Rainer -- who was then the President of Lifeway -- conducted an informal Twitter poll. In this poll he asked pastors to share the average amount of time they spend working on a single sermon. He found that 70% of pastors spend between 10 and 18 hours working on a single sermon. And most pastors -- myself included -- do this around 50 times a year.
So sometimes it's almost impossible to write another sermon...but Sunday's still coming. And when Sunday comes there are going to be people sitting in your church expecting you to preach. So you have to do it...you have to preach.
Part of what I want to share in this blog is how I've managed to be ready when Sunday comes over the last twelve years. I want to share how I come up with ideas, how I find the right voice for the message, how I actually get it all down on paper and more.
And I want to do that because I know how hard it is to know that Sunday's coming. And I want to help make your next Sunday a little easier than the last one.