I have a love / hate relationship with preaching. It’s something I love to do. It’s also something that I don’t like promoting myself to do. I have the philosophy that the pulpit belongs to the minister / elders of the church and that the preaching of the word to the congregation is a privilege and not a right and that they will invite people to preach if they are so inclined. Therefore unless asked if I would like to preach, I will never ask to be allowed to preach.
However that doesn’t stop me from praying “Lord, open the doors to preach” for in many ways I do and have sensed God’s calling on my life to be a preacher / pastor on a regular basis.
However, I find the process of sermon preparation daunting. After all, I am about to speak a message to the congregation about God’s word and in many ways am the spokesperson for God at that time. Therefore I soak my sermons in prayer and in more prayer asking the Lord to grant me wisdom and inspiration. I find I am fairly nervous leading up to the sermon, and once I step to the platform and start talking, all those nerves disappear. I must admit that I have preached it a number of time’s before hand – to the dog, the cat, in the shower, driving etc and so hopefully have memorised the bulk of what I want to say before hand. But its deeper than just memorising what you want to say. The word of God has to soak your very being. It needs to permeate your every thought, and in many ways your whole being, every blood cell, vein, muscle, brain cell, breathe has to be immersed and soaked in the word, so that your not just speaking it, it becomes alive because it’s become alive in you.
I enjoy the preaching moment. There are many times when I think to myself, “Why are these people listening to me?” And I have to remind myself that if they are, its because they are listening to what God wants to say and not what I am actually saying… And indeed there are times when God does speak directly to people and I have had times when people have said to me later- I was convicted when you said this or that… yet the truth of the matter is I never said any such thing.
I enjoy seeing the fruit of preaching. Whether its through someone coming up later to be prayed for – someone thanking me and telling me how they were encouraged or convicted in some way…or even when someone accepts Christ for the first time…now that is really exciting.
Yet, there is also a price to pay. I find that I become stirred up. My spirit / inner man gets stirred up to preach and so the adrenaline starts pumping and I go on a bit of a high. And what goes up, must come down. I find it hard to sleep after I have preached. My mind sometimes becomes filled with doubts, which I keep giving to the Lord. I rehearse the sermon, thinking of different things I could have, should have said, or not said. I think of the people I preached to and start praying for them and asking the Lord to bless who ever sits on my heart.
I find that over the next few days I am more tired than normal. I am exhausted. Yet – even Jesus experienced this as well. He could feel the power going out from him. There were times when he just had to get up to the top of a mountain or some remote place and pray. And so the process begins, when I have given it my best and I pick up the Bible and start reading it – my mind unable to absorb vast chunks and so I begin with a verse and allow that to speak to me and start the process of filling my inner being once again and preparing for the next time, when ever that may be, that I am asked to preach again.
Yet, its for this reason that I believe its right for the preaching ministry of the church to belong to a team. Yes, there has to be a teaching / preaching elder…but they can’t do it alone. And perhaps the reason why there is incredible burnout amongst pastors is because they do attempt to do it alone, without taking a break to be fed, nurtured and released by releasing others to share the load.