1. I am scared because you are there! This “deer in the headlights fear” is typically an issue for the beginner preacher. Actually, the fear is usually of public speaking. Seeing all the faces looking toward them, the preacher freezes and goes into a restricted function coping mechanism. Vocal range becomes limited, pauses disappear, body language gets stuck, the mind struggles to think clearly. This can occur for more experienced preachers under specific circumstances (perhaps a special event, preaching in a new venue, preaching after illness), but typically preachers who have moved past the deer in the headlights fear will be able to adjust fairly easily to new circumstances.
2. I am scared of what you might do! The itchy-ear-scratching fear can occur for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the preacher wants to keep listeners happy rather than stirring any controversy. Maybe the preacher feels their position or even salary is being threatened (after all, churches can become hideously political environments). The result of getting the gaze fixed on the listeners evaluations will be preaching that is stripped of its potential. Sometimes God wants to stir up listeners, or challenge them, or change them. Itchy-ear-scratching preachers are dull tools for divine purposes.
3. I am scared of what you will think! This need to impress is closely related to the itchy-ear-scratching fear. The preacher’s insecurity is more about self than about what the listeners want. This is about what the listeners think. Are they impressed? Do they think I am clever? Spiritual? A good leader? Because if they think that, then maybe I am. All fears are forms of insecurity, and this one is certainly a matter of insecurity. This is a preacher whose identity is found in what others think rather than in what God says to be true.
There are other fears too. The fear of consequences if we preach certain things will probably only grow as culture “progresses.” What fears would you add to the list? What fears do you sense in your own heart when you preach?