Preaching Puts You In Your Place
Those, my friend, are the words that come rolling out of my mouth every time I click “print” on my sermon on Sunday morning. Two things: 1. Yes, I still use paper sermon notes because I’m an old-school gentleman and 2. I know I’m not alone every time I utter my infamous “Oh well.”
It’s a weighty reality, isn’t it? I’ve not met too many pastors who come skipping into the pulpit on Sunday convinced they have the next “Don’t Waste Your Life” or “Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God” in their hot little hands. At least any who’ve been out of seminary for like a week. The reason why is that preaching is supposed to put a pastor in his place, and remind him every Sunday morning that he has one job to do that he didn’t get to write the job description for. Here’s three ways preaching puts us in our place, and why it should:
Preaching Is Helplessly Heavy
When Paul tells Timothy to preach the word in season and out, he doesn’t say preaching itself is hard, but he does allude to the fact that sermons will be preached in hard seasons. In this sense, preaching is not so much hard as it is heavy. Heavy because we are preaching a message we didn’t manufacture while praying for results we have no man-power to produce. In that sense, we are helpless every time we step into the pulpit. No, we are not helpless to study to show ourselves approved, but the only power we possess is contained in a book we didn’t author. This puts a weight on what we say and how we say it. This puts us in our place.
Preaching Is Inescapably Personal
Let me be straight here, I believe personality is massively important for a preacher. Why? Because God made people with personalities to personally deliver His message. If personality doesn’t matter, than we should all quit preaching and have robot voices recite scripture passages over the sound system every Sunday. I know, some of you actually like that idea. But preaching is personal in the sense that we are putting ourselves on the line emotionally, spiritually and physically every time we open God’s word and say what it says. There’s potential cost and potential loss. There are a million ways to say something and we will say it one particular way out of a million every Sunday, which will have an unknown affect on us and our hearers. This put us in our place.
Preaching Is An Exercise In Humility
One of the reasons why many preachers are anxiety-ridden stress cases every Saturday night is because they want to be famous for their preaching instead of faithful in their preaching. Sure, there might only be 27 people in the pews the next morning, but it might as well be a plenary at T4G for how some pastors envision their stride up to the pulpit. In reality, preaching should be approached as an act of humility. The goal is not to hit home-run sermons every week, but to create a cumulative body of faithful work that the Holy Spirit will use to save the unrighteous and add another layer of sanctification to the righteous.
Remember, the “great” preachers of our day are still weak, sinful, and needy men, who are getting paid just like you (and sure, probably more) to speak something that the world defines as folly.
Here’s a confession: I never listen to my sermon recordings. Why? Because although I might be fine and dandy with my outline, preaching it is another story, and the sound of my voice is one thing I have no power to change. Remembering that puts me in my place. It reminds me that any time I begin to think that this preaching gig has my name stamped all over it, the real truth is that I can’t even bear to hear my own voice. For some of us it’s the sound of our voice, and for others it might be the contents of our outline that gives us the grimaces. Here’s the point: neither of those things should ever be too impressive to us. We’re supposed to be relying on something more than our voice and more impressive than our outline to move people’s hearts, because someone other than ourselves is the only One who can. And will.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything related to this article, I’d love to hear from you. Give me a holler at email@example.com
Ronnie Martin is founder and lead pastor of Substance Church in Ashland & Wooster Ohio, author of Stop Your Complaining, and co-host of The Happy Rant Podcast w/ Barnabas Piper and Ted Kluck. You can follow him @ronniejmartin.