I was with a group of preachers last week and we had a conversation about good reasons to preach. Along the way we generated a few not so good reasons to preach … actually, five downright rubbish reasons to preach (for non-England English speakers, “5 Bad Reasons”). Just in case this is helpful:
1. To keep my job – I understand that both ministry and life are often challenging. I also understand that we at times will find ourselves preaching without the fire we know we should feel inside. But when it gets to the stage of simply trying to keep your job, you are long overdue a conversation with some trusted friends.
2. To make them laugh – There are probably a million variations of this. Essentially the goal is to make people respond to you. Maybe it is to make them appreciate you. Maybe it is to show off your intellect rather than your wit. Whatever the case, if the motivation in your heart is for them to be appreciating you, then your ministry is misfiring.
3. To get the petrol money – Whether it is official honorarium, or a kind gift to cover travel expenses, or even your salary … the chances are that you are not being adequately remunerated for the time spent in study, in ministry experience, and in message preparation. We are far better off trusting God for our support and serving wholeheartedly, rather than worrying about the gift. Once we start directly equating our effort for whatever may come back in return, we are probably better off looking at most regular jobs – not just because of the money, but also because of the state of our hearts!
4. To arrive at the end of the service – Sometimes you aren’t thinking about job security, or the response of the people to you, or even the money you might receive, but you are simply longing for the minute hand to reach the appropriate ending point for the sermon. If you are new to preaching, don’t worry, this feeling won’t last long and you will soon be wondering how your time disappears so quickly. If you are just going through a really low time, prayerfully make it to the end and sit down with someone safe who can listen and pray with you.
5. To get invited back – This is a weird one in preaching world. Whether you are a visiting speaker hoping to not offend enough to get another invitation, or whether you are “preaching with a view” and hoping for a pastoral call, the motivation seems off here too. In every situation we should be trusting God and saying what we believe is appropriate for the text, the listeners and the occasion. Too many “pulpit dating” sermons and the church won’t be getting a healthy diet, even if they are getting “your best sermons.”
There are plenty of reasons why we should preach, but what would you add to this list of rubbish reasons?