Faint Not: The Discouraged Preacher

Charles Spurgeon wrote about the minister’s “fainting fits” in his first series of lectures to his students.  He wrote, “Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds for an ailing flock.”

The ministry of preaching seems to be fertile ground for discouragement.  It is so easy to feel deterred, disheartened or hindered in some way.  Sometimes it is only a feeling, but this doesn’t change its influence on us.

The New Testament has a lot to say about not fainting, growing weary or losing heart.  Paul writes of the perishing state of our outward man, while at the same time the inward man is being renewed.  But what about times when that doesn’t feel like the reality we are living in?

Tomorrow I’d like to ponder several factors that may be leading to discouragement.  Then by the end of the week we’ll ponder some pathways forward.

According to John Stott, “Discouragement is the occupational hazard of Christian ministry.”  

Let’s throw in a bit of Luther too, who apparently stated, “If I should write of the heavy burden of a godly preacher, which he must carry and endure, as I know from my own experience, I would scare every man from the office of preaching.”

Our experience agrees that these great preachers knew what they were talking about.  Let’s ponder together what the contributing factors may be, and what might be done about it.

And let’s pray for others too.  Perhaps you know a preacher who is facing discouragement in some form.  Maybe one who is unwell, or who’s context is particularly challenging.  Why not pray for their hearts to be encouraged this week? Maybe link to this post and tell them you prayed for them?  The battle we are in is too much for any of us to go on alone.

What Are You Aiming To Be?

I was greatly encouraged the other night. After a challenging week I had a two to three hour drive to preach at a university Christian Union meeting. It went well, far better than it should have gone. On the way home I was built up and encouraged by listening to Dr Joseph Stowell, former president at Moody Bible Institute. He was speaking about preaching. He encouraged this preacher.

One of the gems I appreciated in his talk was this. He urged his listeners not to aim to be a great preacher. Instead, he urged them to strive to be an effective preacher. Greatness puts the focus on yourself, while effectiveness keeps the focus where it should be, on the listeners. As he said, “The issue is not how well you’re doing, it’s how well your listeners are doing!”

One of the benefits of aiming for effectiveness rather than greatness is that it takes away any jealousy or resentment of “great” preachers. If you’re not aiming for greatness then they are no threat, they are not the competition. In reality there are very few great preachers, and most of us would do well to not be comparing ourselves and making excuses for our own lack of “fame” (if I had thirteen secretaries, or if I had a slick marketing manager, or if I just knew the right people, etc.) Let the greats be great. Let us be effective. Oh, and if Swindoll, or Piper, or Stanley, or Lucado, or Begg, or Briscoe, or David Jeremiah, or whoever, happens to throw a bail of hay over the fence and feed our sheep, then praise the Lord!

Let’s not aim for greatness, let’s diligently strive for effectiveness.