The Hardest Thing About Preaching
– by Lance Witt-
I remember Chuck Swindoll once saying that the hardest thing about the Christian life is that it’s so “daily”. For preaching, maybe we could modify his statement just a bit to say “the hardest thing about preaching is that it’s so weekly”. It’s so true, isn’t it? Sunday is always coming… and it comes with relentless consistency.
As a pastor, you know that the moment you finish this week’s message, the countdown has begun toward next week’s message. And when you do this month after month, year after year, you can begin to just crank out sermons rather than craft sermons. Sermon prep can become purely mechanical and just another task on your to do list. It can become more burden than blessing and begin to feel more like a grind than a gift.
Every pastor knows what it is to preach a sermon when your heart isn’t in it and your life isn’t living it. That has certainly been true of me more times than I want to admit.
Perhaps the hardest thing about preaching is keeping your heart in it.
We all know Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) where Solomon admonishes us…
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
We don’t usually think about that verse in relationship to preaching, but I think it is very applicable. Guarding my heart has huge implications for my preaching. My passion, my effectiveness, my boldness, and my spiritual power flow out of the heart.
So, how do keep from becoming a Pharisee in your preaching? How do you keep motivated and your heart engaged week after week?
Through the years, I have found 3 ways that help me stay motivated and preaching from a healthy heart.
- Give sermon preparation priority in my schedule.
Nothing sucks the joy out of preaching like scrambling to pull together a sermon at the last minute. Just like you, I have had weeks where all the urgent things or distracting things pushed my message preparation to the fringes. Sometimes the intrusions on my prep time couldn’t be helped. But the truth is, most of the time I just let the urgent crowd out the most important.
Preaching is the one time when most of your congregation is present and you have the chance to shepherd, cast vision, instruct, comfort, and share the mind of Christ in the space of an hour. That deserves priority space on your calendar.
Also, by getting started early in the week (or even weeks ahead), I can allow my soul to marinate in the text or topic that I am preaching on. As I think about the message and ponder it, it begins to live in me rather than become just another sermon I deliver
So, what do you need to say “no” to so that you can give your best to your message prep?
- Spend time pursuing Jesus not just a sermon
There is significant research that reveals many pastors struggle with this. There have been seasons where my walk with Christ was stagnant and my time in the word was mostly for sermon prep.
The irony is that I can actually become relationally disconnected from the very one I am preaching about on Sunday.
Because I know my tendency, it has become very important for me to put a firewall between my personal pursuit of relationship WITH Jesus from my pursuit of leadership FOR Jesus.
One of the things that has really helped me with this is reading not only the Bible, but reading books that feed my soul. I would encourage you to weekly engage books that help you love Jesus more deeply.
- Remind myself what’s at stake.
One of the things through the years that has helped me keep my heart in it is to remind myself of the “why” of preaching, not just the “what” of preaching.
I remind myself…
- that God has called me to represent Him in my community.
- that spiritual warfare is real.
- that the gospel changes lives.
- that marriages are hanging in the balance.
- that I get to help people know God’s plan for a great life.
- THAT THIS MATTERS FOR ETERNITY.
I know that preaching from a pure and engaged heart is no small task, but it is worth the struggle. So, here is the question I want to leave you with… What step do you need to take to insure that your heart is in your preaching? Sit with that question for a few moments. Let God’s Spirit speak to you. And then, obey whatever He reveals to you.