What A Dolphin Cruise Taught Me About Preaching

My oldest child loves dolphins. Let me rephrase that. My oldest child is amazed, enthralled, and obsessed with dolphins. This summer, while on family vacation, I shelled out just south of $100 so the family could see dolphins up close on a “guaranteed to see ’em” dolphin cruise.
The Pearson Five woke up early, got ready, ate breakfast, greased up spots showing skin, and drove the half hour to the designated departure area. Excitement was high. Anticipation was brewing. Thoughts and discussion of seeing dolphins jump and swim and show their fins and blow water out of the holes on their heads were plenty. The assumption was this would be the greatest two hours of the entire vacation.
We finally arrived. Ran out of the car. Paid the money (just south of $100, if I didn’t already mention that). Used the restroom. Hopped on the boat with around 50 other anxious people. Pulled our phones out for pictures and videos. And eagerly waited to receive our instructions from the captain so we could finally cruise out into the water. Two hours of non-stop dolphin viewing were finally here!!
Around 10 minutes after we left the dock, we saw the top of about 7 dolphins’ bodies for about 5 minutes. Then we never saw another dolphin for the entire 2 hour cruise. No dolphins jumping. No dolphins up close. No water coming out of blow holes. In case your wondering, I paid just under $100 to see dolphins for 5 minutes. The five minutes were fun and exciting. But much of the excitement was due to the thinking that “if we are seeing this many dolphins this early in the cruise, how many more are we gonna get to see over the next hour and 45 minutes!?!?!?!” Zero. What we experienced in the boat was what we experienced early in the mornings from our deck back at our condo.
For the remainder of the cruise, the majority of the time was filled with whiny children, a captain telling corny jokes, and parents checking Facebook on their phones. Why? Because nothing else was happening.
This experience reminded me of something SUPER important when it comes to preaching and the Sunday morning experience:
People get up on Sunday morning (when they could be sleeping in), get ready, eat breakfast, shave, get their kids “fixed,” and drive to a campus to get something they cannot get at home. They come to get a word from the Lord. They come to experience the presence of the Lord with His people and His Word. They come to get hope. They come to be challenged. They come to be encouraged. They come to be reminded. They come to get help. They come to be in community. They come to hear what the Lord is doing in and around them. That’s the expectation.
I fear that far too often what happens with those anticipating a season of worship at who the Lord is and what He is doing get bored after 5 minutes and endure the rest of the morning. I am not for a second saying it is the preacher’s job to entertain. They can be entertained at home. But it is the preacher’s job to deliver a Word from the Lord in a compelling way that causes them to lean in and evaluate how it fits into their lives and world in which they live.
The captain of the dolphin cruise didn’t work hard to ensure we experienced dolphins for two hours. He “guaranteed we saw ’em” and spent the remainder of the time telling really bad and dumb jokes. Preacher, work hard on the sermon. Wrestle with the text. Wrestle with what your people are dealing with. Wrestle with how to bring the two together. Lay out for them what they came for and give them a Word from the Lord.
People don’t get up early in the morning and wrestle the family in and out of the car to get a surface reading of the Bible and some corny jokes. They need a compelling and passionate Word from the Lord.