Preaching: 3 Questions for Managing the Heart
March 6, 2015
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
God Centered Life Ministries is pleased to welcome Jeff Brewer, lead pastor of Hope Fellowship, to the blog today. One of the greatest challenges for a pastor when he preaches is not his speaking ability (though it is important to speak well) or how accurate his exegesis of the passage was (though it is important to be diligent in the study). The greatest challenge for the preacher is the right managing of his own heart in the midst of the whole preaching process start to finish. Here are three questions you can ask yourself as you seek to manage your heart: 1. Who is the primary audience you are preparing for? When I first began to preach regularly I was much more concerned about what people thought of me than anything else. Sadly, when I was preparing I was thinking about myself and how I would come across when I was in the pulpit. I daydreamed about how powerful the Word would seem as I preached and what the people would think of me as I opened up the Word (always positive of course). When I thought about the text I was going to preach, it seemed so effortless in my mind in how the words would flow as I delivered my sermon in my mind’s eye. I would think of stories or jokes and imagine how people would love or laugh at the various illustrations. What I got wrong was I was thinking almost entirely about myself. I do think a pastor should think about himself as he prepares, just not in the way I just described. The primary person who should be impacted by our sermon is ourselves. We should think of those in our congregation, of course, and be praying for the concerns that we know people have, and the trials they are going through, but we need the Word more than anyone else we know! As I prepare, I need to remember, “I am preaching to myself, and then inviting the congregation in to listen as I preach with myself as the primary beneficiary.” I know that if I am being impacted by the Word of God through the Spirit, then others will be as well. If my aim is to entertain, or be prophetic, or insightful, or knowledgeable, then I am not working toward the end that Scripture intends as it is preached. God wants his Word to impact our minds and our hearts, with our hearts and minds being the first in line. The danger for the pastor who only preaches occasionally on Sunday mornings is that there is such self-induced pressure to “hit a home run” that oftentimes it sounds like the preacher is directing his comments to the congregation alone, while bypassing his own heart in order to make people pay attention to him. People pay attention to the Word as it is preached when they can tell that the pastor himself believes what he is saying, not when he is simply a gifted orator or exegete. 2. What do you want to hear after you preach? When you walk out of the sanctuary and run into the pastor who has just preached, what do you say? Do you say, “Thank you, Pastor. I’m sure it was good today, but I didn’t really pay attention much because I have a lot going on in my life.” Or, “Thank you, Pastor. I really think that was a poor sermon on every level and it seemed completely irrelevant to me.” Doubtful. You shake his hand and say, “Good sermon, Pastor.” Or, “Thank you for your sermon.” The point is, if you are tempted to mutter something as you walk past the pastor, likely others are doing the same thing for you after you preach! Don’t merely take the word of people who tell you right after a sermon, “Good sermon.” Be encouraged when someone gives you a compliment after you preach, but don’t base your opinion of whether it was a good sermon by how many people complimented you afterwards. The Spirit works through us, despite our weaknesses, but we should be always seeking to grow in how we communicate the Word. Ask trusted friends who will tell you the truth what was helpful and what needed some work. 3. On Monday morning, do you believe what you prayed Saturday night? Likely, on Saturday night and Sunday morning you are crying out to God asking him to somehow use your feeble preparation and abilities for his glory. But sadly, by Monday morning, the emphasis can be completely self-centered and we can be lamenting how badly we did. If you really believe that you are just a tool God uses, then be content to be the tool he intended you to be and stop being depressed (or a jerk to your wife) on Mondays. Believe what you pray Saturday night and walk by faith knowing that God is faithful to the preaching of His Word. What we, and our churches, need most is for us to be engaging our hearts as we prepare to preach, after we preach and as we work through our own emotions in the days following. We would all agree it is not about us, so let’s pray that God would help us to live this way whether our sermons seem effective or not.]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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