About four years ago, I had just jumped the hurdle of year one as the primary preaching pastor at my church. The learning curve was steep, but everything I learned that first year has held true through the last four. Since then, I have experienced some new lessons worth passing on.
Whether you’re just starting out and five years seems like a lifetime away, or you’re pushing five decades of faithfulness to the pulpit, I hope this post will be an encouragement.
I’m Finding My Voice
When I started preaching, I was told it would take 300 sermons before I found my voice. (I think that might be a Tim Keller nugget of wisdom or something.) It seemed like an insane number of sermons to aspire to, but as I approach the magical 300 mark, I am inclined to agree. I look back on the development of my preaching over the last few years and I see a distinct move away from emulating the style, structure, and sound of preachers whom I look up to. I still look up to them, but am definitely preaching as “myself”, and that is a deep joy.
I’m More Comfortable in My Skin
So much of communication is nonverbal. I remember being deeply aware of how I was presenting myself earlier on as a preacher. I’m still really aware of my non-verbal communication, but not nearly as nervous about how I look. Now that I feel more comfortable, I am more focused in growing as a communicator of the Word of God than what my hands and feet are doing.
I’m Less Shaken by People’s Smiles and Frowns
When you prepare a message, you should consider the people who will hear it. But early on, not only did I think about those I was preaching to, but I was overly concerned and afraid of their responses. I don’t think I ever failed to be faithful to the Word in my preaching, but I was moved in my mood by the smiles and frowns of the people I was preaching to. This came from a brokenness in me that led me not to serve and preach faithfully for the Lord alone, but for the approval of my church. It was sinful, but God’s grace is committed to seeing me changed. As I preached over time, I have matured as a follower of Jesus, which frees me to proclaim the word faithfully, no matter the angry emails or “atta boys” that might come.
Spiritual Oppression is Still the Norm
Saturday, the day that should be a family day filled with fun and joy, is my least favorite day of the week. If I am preaching that Sunday, I’m going to hear accusation after accusation, feel depressed on the border of despondent, and will more than likely be short with my wife and kids.
All the worst parts of me: my flesh, the darkness of the world, and the work of the accuser ramp up every weekend. The icing on the cake is a lovely waking nightmare as I drift off to sleep every Saturday night.
I know why this happens. I know it drives me not to trust in my own strength, but to cast myself and my message before the Lord who desires I preach his glorious gospel in my weakness. But, and somewhat sadly, if I thought a year in that the spiritual oppression was going to get easier, I was wrong. It is as consistent as the sunrise, but less warming.
Those Saturday struggles will probably never change, but I take comfort in the fact that I will. I will change from one degree of glory to another, as the Lord shapes me through challenge, spiritual oppression, and repentance that he grants me because I am his beloved, before I am the guy who preaches for him.
There are many more lessons I’ve learned in my study as I prepare my message and in the pulpit as I preach. In the next post, I’ll pick up with two more preaching truths I’ve learned over the last five years. I pray you’ll be encouraged by these reflections.