Although I am ordained and have preached in a variety of churches and venues around the world, I have never held a position as pastor of a church. And though I have taught communication skills to thousands of pastors, the focus of this article is not part of my curriculum. However, my close association with pastors who have attended our Dynamic Communicators Workshops and my relationships with my own pastors over the years has given me insight into many of the issues pastors face. These relationships have also given me a profound respect and love for men and women in all facets of ministry who dedicate their lives to communicating the gospel. I agree with Paul: You are people with "beautiful feet" (Romans 10:15).
Many of my "front line" friends have confessed that occasionally they lose the passion in their preaching. In fact, most preachers have experienced this at least once in their ministry. Though few openly admit this, it is a secret that can't be hidden, because its symptoms eventually diminish the power of a pastor's preaching.
I remember reading several years ago about the account of a man who sat listening to a sermon, uneasy about the emotions he was feeling. The worship experience had been excellent; the sermon was well thought out, understandable and even applicable. Yet, as he listened, the man felt an unshakable sense of boredom. Where did it come from? He wondered why he felt no enthusiasm about the challenge of this message. It was well into the sermon when suddenly it dawned on him: He was bored because the pastor was bored—with another Sunday morning that demanded another 20-minute message delivered out of duty and without passion.
When I talk about losing the passion in preaching, I am not talking about falling into some horrible moral sin or turning one's back on God. That is another topic. I am talking about a much more subtle condition that affects the power of our preaching, i.e. getting so busy doing God's work we lose touch with God. I have been there, done that. It is a frightening place to be.
Now before you conclude that I am sitting in a comfortable sniper's nest about to take pot-shots at pastors who are doing battle on the front lines, consider this: my heart goes out to the bored pastor who was speaking that Sunday. I can testify that the uneasy feeling experienced by the listener is nothing compared to the cold horror that floods the soul of a messenger of the gospel who has lost the fire that once brought sermons to life. It's that "We shall mount up on wings of emus" feeling. There have been times when I have longed for the exhilaration (and exhaustion) that accompanies having passionately spent myself proclaiming the good news, times when passionate preaching was replaced by passive description. This experience can lead to a soul-shaking crisis of confidence and can even lead to a crisis of faith.
If you have lost the passion in your preaching, or if you sometimes find yourself preaching only because "Sunday is coming," I hope the following suggestions will help you begin a journey of restoring that passion.
Rethink your Preparation Process
Years ago, one of our Dynamic Communicator Workshop students made a thought-provoking statement that I will never forget. He said, "I do not study that I might preach, but because I study, I must preach."