5 Rubbish Reasons to Preach

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?

Why Do We Preach 4

why preach2Here are another pair of thoughts as we reflect on the why? behind the ministry.  Perhaps these two should give more pause for thought than the others already posted?

7. Because we can’t help but speak of Someone so wonderful.  This should be the case.  Sadly, over time, it can easily cease being the case.  We can end up in a role, in a ritual, in a rut.  We end up preaching because that is what we do, or that is how we pay bills, or that is how we get respect.  We feel we should.  We feel it is expected.  We know it is needed.  And somewhere along the way we fail to notice the fog gathering between our hearts and heaven.

A growing spiritual complacency is the proverbial frog in boiling water syndrome for preachers.  God can become familiar and distant at the same time.  He can become a concept, a set of truths, a source of identity for us, but somehow fade from being the captivating One who so fills our hearts and lives that we can’t help but speak of Him.  May we all have a constant stream of newly engaged folks in our churches – constant reminders of the simple reality that a captivated heart can’t help but spill out.

8. Because we care about the people to whom we preach.  Again, this should be the case.  Sadly, over time, our flesh can easily co-opt the other centredness of ministry and turn it to a self-serving project.  We can become preachers doing so to gain respect, to gain credibility, to gain attention, to gain a following, to gain influence.  The gain increases and the give becomes token.  Of course we can talk about giving – we can frame the ministry in self-sacrificial and spiritual terms.  But really?

Just as spiritual fog can go undetected for too long, so a growing self-absorption is hard to spot in the mirror.  Our flesh will always justify a subtle pursuit of godlike status.  So we must keep walking with the Lord and ask Him to search us and know us.  Ask Him to underline the motivations that drive what may look like a gloriously giving ministry.  The true biblical preacher is shaped by the Word they preach, and they join God in giving of themselves as they preach it to others.  The blessings are hard to quantify, but they must be the by-product, not the goal.

Pondering the Cycles of Motivation

Is it me, or is motivation cyclical?  I’ll use the term motivation, but it overlaps with issues of spiritual dryness, struggles with temptation, seasons of spiritual attack and so on.

The One-Week Cycle – Most of us recognize this one.  We build toward Sunday and then crash on Monday.  Some take Monday off.  Others use Monday for brain-dead admin catch-up.  Few preachers I know are at their best emotionally or spiritually on a Monday.

The One-Year Cycle – This is easy to spot too.  Something about January seems to reinvigorate and stir resolutions.  Perhaps December is so busy for you that it takes until February before the new year energy kicks in for you.  Nonetheless, there seems to be an injection of energy at the start of the new year for many of us.

The Six-Week Cycle – This is the one that is perhaps most significant for me.  Perhaps its just me, but I’ve noticed a roughly six-week cycle in my own motivation.  It could be 4-8 weeks, but I’ll call it 6 (I won’t call it 40 days in case it sounds like I have, or am making up, a biblical case for it).  It seems like I can trace a dip in motivation, or an increase in temptation, or a dip into dryness, roughly every six weeks.

You may be perpetually up, or unceasingly low, or you may notice some cyclical nature to your spiritual, emotional, ministerial motivation.  I think it is good to know our own patterns, to be aware of our own weaknesses, and to seek to deal with these things not through the effort of the flesh, but in an appropriate spiritual manner.  I’ll give my thoughts on that tomorrow.

Don’t Preach Just ‘Cos

If you preach regularly, it is easy to get into an unhealthy mindset concerning the ministry. It’s the kind of mindset where you will preach next time because it’s what you do. You did it last week and will do it again this week. I’m sure most of us have experienced this at times. If you feel this Sunday approaching, but a numb feeling inside, take some time to thrash it out with the Lord.

The missing pieces might include a loss of several things: wonder at the person and power of God, sense of the privilege of speaking His Word to others, awareness of the very real and personal needs, or even the peril of the listeners, and the reality of the ongoing spiritual battle in which we currently live.

When I find motivation has faded, or there is a dryness inside, I remember men like David, Job, and Jeremiah. In the Bible we find people who were really honest before God, yet I know my tendency to be superficial and aloof. Perhaps the time will soon come, or maybe it is today, that some of us need to pour out our hearts to the Lord in total honesty. Perhaps we’ll find, like Jeremiah, that once all the emotion is spent, and the energy gone, that there is still a fire in the bones and we must speak for God!

Don’t preach just ‘cos it’s what you do, or you are on the schedule. Preach ‘cos there’s a very deep, God-given and God-captivated, need-motivated, battle-hardened, must-ness in your spirit.