Some Reflections on My First Year as a Preaching Pastor
As the campus pastor of a church with video preaching, I grew accustomed to preaching only a few times a year. The lead pastor would preach at another location, and we got the video a week later. Suddenly, a shift took place through a complicated calamity in the mother church and I was thrust into the role of lead pastor of a campus that was now an independent church.
While I aspired to the role of preaching pastor, I wasn’t expecting it to arrive this quickly or with this kind of complexity. I had no training, very little experience and rarely received feedback when I did preach. Yet, here I was! At the ripe age of 29, and with about 10 sermons under my belt, I began the journey as the primary gospel communicator to my church.
I’d love to say the transition was seamless and non-eventful, but the past year has been one with many dangers, toils and snares. Some of you may be able to relate. As I’ve thought about the stuff written on preaching, it most often comes (appropriately so) from wizened sages who have preached for years. But I decided to pause this morning to jot down some things I’m learning after a year. If you’re a beginner like me, perhaps it will be provide a timely encouragement to your soul.
It Ain’t About Me.
In many ways I thought preaching was kind of like a popularity contest. If you made people like you and laugh with you, you were doing a good job. Now, my greatest desire in my preaching is for Jesus to become real and impactful in the lives of my congregation.
But I’ve realized this is not about me. At all. My desire to be witty, sharp, and funny is being replaced with a desire to see Christ become just one degree brighter and more impactful to the people in my congregation. Now I’m just a newbie, but it seems like if Jesus is becoming bigger and I’m becoming smaller, that’s amazing grace.
Encouragement has to be harnessed into humility, or else it corrupts quickly.
We all like to receive compliments. But for the preacher, the love of compliments is a perilous path. You can’t stop people from thanking you for preaching; they are showing you biblical honor. But I’ve noticed those compliments must be quickly harnessed into humility, meaning, it must be transferred to God inside my soul. It helps me to remember that it’s the Holy Spirit is using my words to impact lives, and nothing more.
Criticism hurts more than I thought.
I’ll bet you can relate to this. Prior to becoming the lead pastor, I certainly experienced criticism in my former role. I sought to receive it and learn from it. No problem! But I was not prepared for how much non-constructive criticism wounded and bothered me. I felt like I poured my heart into my messages and preached my guys out, leaving it all on the field. But some people didn’t seem to appreciate the labor for reasons that sometimes seemed frivolous to me. To be honest, it hurt.
I don’t have the answers to this yet, but I think this is somehow tied to my first point. Through well-meaning critique, I’m growing smaller. But I wish I would arrive wherever God is taking me much quicker. Because the criticism smarts.
The Holy Spirit is far more active and leading in my sermons than I ever realized.
It used to be when I thought about preaching, I figured the Holy Spirit arrived for the delivery. He was like the star quarterback who could sit out the practices but needed to be taken snaps in the Big Game. But now I’m seeing it differently.
As I prepare my messages and dig deep into scripture, I now experience the Holy Spirit leading me. In fact he’s guiding me just as much in my preparation as in my delivery. And He still shows up when I preach! He gives me the words to say and how to say them in-the-moment. It is a gloriously edifying experience.