Sunday morning I preached the last of the messages. I’d taught class for four days, but then things got busier. Between Thursday evening and Sunday morning (60 hours) I spoke six times, taught two sessions, and travelled many miles by car, train and aeroplane. Not the busiest few days, but among the tightest in terms of the travel schedule. So Sunday afternoon I got on the train to start the journey home.
I was tired and knew that attempting to read or write would be borderline futile. So instead I chose to enjoy a tired feast. Stopping only to hand over my passport or order food, I basically spent the next hours listening to about a dozen messages from about seven different speakers. Subjects were varied. Speakers truly diverse – from Stan Toussaint and Ron Allen to a series from Andy Stanley and even a few minutes of Ken Davis. I drifted a couple of times from eyes closed to actually asleep, so I moved back and listened again to those minutes.
I didn’t listen to make observations on preaching technique. I didn’t listen to gain ideas for illustrations or preaching strategies. I listened because I knew I needed to be fed. I was fed. Actually, I feasted. A stunning illustration of Isaiah 53:10 from an elderly scholar. A moving introduction to a message on life’s pivotal circumstances from a contemporary communicator. An inspiring series on growing in faith. A great example of traditional preaching on the tabernacle. A well-shaped presentation of the raising of Lazarus. A non-traditional survey of a theme in John’s gospel.
Sometimes we need to stop giving out and take the time to be fed. Hungry?
Just to mix up the content on this site, I am dipping into a book by Andy Stanley and Ed Young, Can We Do That? I’d like to share one of their suggestions. “We make the message the first priority of the service – and of the pastor.”
In the busy and complex life of church ministry, not to mention the complex relationships between different interest groups, it is important to remember how important the Sunday morning message is. It is probably the only ministry of the church that has the potential to reach the whole church. It is probably the ministry of the church most likely to reach visitors and guests (and online listeners if you are into MP3 ministry).
Yet how easy for it to slip down the list when it comes to planning the service, or planning your own weekly schedule for preparation. Do we need to take stock and make sure the preaching of the Word is getting the priority attention that it needs to be done well? Are there tasks to be offloaded so that the preacher can be free to preach? As preachers do we need to be more deliberately inaccessible at certain times to prepare properly?
Acts 6:4 comes to mind.
We’ve considered unhelpful “pseudo-feedback,” and lack of the best feedback of all (life change). Here are a couple more categories to consider:
6. Ministry drain. This can sneak up on a preacher. Preaching takes a lot out of you. It uses up stores of energy. Not only physically, but spiritually, mentally, emotionally and relationally too. Many preachers point to the post-preaching lethargy they experience. Most non-preachers are unaware of this phenomenon. The danger is that we forget it and then misread the drained feeling for discouragement through failure or whatever. Answers are as common as paperbacks in a bookstore – rest more, exercise more, eat better, drink water, pray longer, pray earlier, have dates with God, have dates with your spouse, wrestle with your children, take Mondays off, etc. No easy answer, but don’t misread the source of the discouragement.
7. Unhelpful Comparison. Number 1 was comparing your preaching to what you imagined it would be like ahead of time. This time it is comparing your preaching to others. It’s good to learn from others. But don’t beat yourself up because you are not Robinson, MacArthur, Piper, Stanley, Miller, Craddock, Swindoll, Kaiser or whoever your personal favorite might be. Super-preachers are a blessing to many, perhaps even to us as we listen to them on the radio or at mega-events. But the people that hear you on Sunday morning need you on Sunday morning. You may not be super-smooth or super-polished or super-funny or even a super-scholar, but you are a super-blessing as you faithfully preach the Word out of love for God and for them! Be careful not to get down through unhelpful comparison.
I don’t want to make a post too long, so instead I’ll extend the series. Another post to follow.