I’m a new pastor in a new church who is new to preaching. But I’m discovering that the call to preach brings blessings and treasure even for us rookies. If you haven’t read my first blog, start here. But if you’re joining me after reading my first report, let me continue with some things I’m learning.
Preaching Christ crucified and risen never gets dry, boring, or old.
In this day and age of “gospel centrality,” it seems like proclaiming Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:23) might seem repetitive and boring. Like new people don’t want old news. But I’m learning this is not the case! Every week, and every message, I’m working to make the central point of the whole sermon the completed work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. This eternal truth never gets old.
But here’s the surprising thing: Preaching this wonderful news refreshes my own soul. To be reminded each week of his great sacrifice and love for us incites joy within me. Sometimes it seems scandalous to me that I get paid to do this!
There is always more to the passage.
I thought it would be really tough to get enough material for some passages. I was wrong, seriously wrong! One message never seems enough to plumb the depths of God’s Eternal Word. Also, the wondrous depth of scripture gives me freedom to contextualize my message to my congregation so they might be comforted, challenged, and encouraged through the Word.
The best way to learn preaching is to preach.
It is no surprise that I became more comfortable and capable as I preached more sermons. I try to remember that when I preach one that tanks, or doesn’t ‘feel’ like it hit the mark. It’s good to remember I’ll have another shot in the second service. And next week too!
Tim Keller says it takes 300 sermons for a preacher to “find his voice”. I’m about 50 strokes into that number and I look forward to continuing the journey of “finding my voice”. What’s most important though is that God’s people are hearing His voice through His word, even as I find my way.
Preaching is exhausting.
I remember scoffing when I was told preaching one hour is as tiring as doing eight hours of work. I repent, I was wrong! Preaching two to three times on a Sunday wipes me out. Here’s what I’m learning: If I’m going to stay fresh and make it beyond a year, I need a good recovery plan. Then I need to stick to it.
The spiritual battle is more serious than I ever imagined.
It’s hard to understand and I certainly didn’t expect it. But on the Saturday’s before I preach, I experience about six to eight hours of deep and dark depression. There seems to be some kind of weekly tussle in my soul – over my calling, my ability, my desire to continue, and honestly sometimes even a desire to run away from my responsibility. This is where community makes the difference. With a year under my belt, I’ve learned to anticipate this attack and invite my family and elders to pray for me.
If you can relate to this experience then I would suggest you do the same thing.
Winsome communication is no substitute for hard truth.
We all want to be liked and we all want people to listen to us. But I’m learning that if we are faithfully preaching the word of God, it leads us to challenge our people with hard truth. I mean the kind of truth that no amount of winsome and attractive communication can soften. It’s not only a good thing, but it’s an essential thing.
The truth we deliver should always be delivered in love. To be faithful to the Lord, however, we must remain courageously committed to teaching the ‘whole counsel of God. This means the good, the bad and the ugly.
If I do not love, I should not preach.
If my primary motivation to preach the gospel is not God’s great love for the lost shown through his son Jesus Christ, I should not even bother preparing to preach. Love is our motivation, love is our message, and love is the result of good, godly, gospel-centered preaching. Love is tough, love is gritty, love is bold, and true love is potently portrayed through Jesus Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection. One of the most important lessons for me over this past year seems to be a good reminder for all of us: Let love be your motivation and your message.
There’s been much to learn over the last 12 months and I am hopeful to learn more in the years to come. We are all works in progress – especially preachers.
I can’t wait to experience the riches of His grace in Year 2!