Preaching is a ministry that comes with plenty of scope for discouragement. Preaching involves being buffeted spiritually, giving out, receiving criticism, seeing disappointing results, and then having to go again, sometimes all too soon! The weekly emotional roller-coaster often has more low points than adrenaline highs.
1. Discouragements are par for the course. Facing discouragement is normal in all ministry. If someone in ministry claims to be on a perpetual high, then something might seem a bit off. If you are feeling discouraged, you are not alone. Across the globe there will be many others struggling with a passage, frustrated by a lack of response, tired from the spiritual onslaught, and drained from issues swirling in our culture that are impacting the church. Remembering that others are feeling it too can be a help at times like this.
2 .Remember God’s work in your life. He gifted you, prepared you, shaped you, and has used you. Reminisce over those times when God’s work through you has been clear and evident in the lives of others. Remember the blessing of your training – the formal studies, the encouraging relationships, even the books you’ve enjoyed reading. Recall those models and mentors that have inspired you, those prayer partners that have stood with you. Review that file of encouraging notes and emails.
3. Identify the actual standard for your ministry. It is so easy to start feeling pressured by standards that God is not holding up against you. It could be the long-serving previous pastor, or a famous preacher in an edited podcast that you enjoy (or that your congregation enjoys). It could be a world-renowned preacher, or a fellow minister in your church. God is not expecting you to be someone else. He wants you to be you. Empowered, growing, improving, but still you.
4. Who should you please? You cannot keep everyone happy all the time. You may preach with great sensitivity and still step on some toes. When it comes to preaching, you are not called to keep multiple plates spinning where each plate is the emotional happiness of key people in your life: the board of the church, the key political figure in the church, the most sensitive person in the church. It isn’t even to keep your spouse, or other big supporters of your ministry happy. Your goal is to love the Lord radically and seek to please Him.
5. Pray, Prepare and Preach. If we take stock of your lifetime of sermons and add them to mine and a few others, what do we discover? We discover that the chances of this Sunday’s message being the catalyst for spiritual revolution is very low. By all means pray for big things, but remember the principle of a good basic diet. It isn’t the stunning, best ever, perfect cuisine that raises a healthy adult. That Christmas lunch or special birthday dinner is great, but it is the good basic diet offered day by day that raises a healthy adult. In the same way, if all you can do for this Sunday is a good basic sermon – great, go for it. Your church will be the healthier for it. Pray, get your nose into the text and give what you can come Sunday.