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preaching article How Your Preaching Can Hurt Your Church

How Your Preaching Can Hurt Your Church

based on 7 ratings
Aug 29, 2012


I love preaching. I love to preach myself and I love to hear others preach. Preaching is a God-ordained means of grace (1 & 2 Timothy). It is a good gift of God given for our blessing and benefit. But like so many blessings from God we can elevate them to become a distraction or even an idol.

In my young pastoral career (seven years) I have seen some unintended consequences of my love for preaching. I have observed a few ways in which my love for preaching has hurt our church. These observations do not diminish my love, appreciation, or priority of preaching. Instead, they helped me to regain pastoral balance and focus.

Here then are a few ways in which the idolatry of preaching can hurt your church:

1. You neglect shepherding. Pastors are called to shepherd (1 Pet. 5.1ff). Shepherd is both a noun and a verb; it characterizes who we are and what we do. The Great Shepherd knows his sheep (John 10.14) and therefore we as undershepherds must know the sheep. If we are holed up in a study for countless hours with little to no contact with the general sheep population, we are not much of a shepherd. In fact we would look a lot more like a pulpit supply guy than a local church pastor. An unbalanced love for preaching could actually cause you to abrogate your responsibility as a shepherd. This is something that we as pastors will answer for, and a good excuse is not, “But Lord, I was reading commentaries!” We are called to be shepherds. Shepherds are those who preach to and actually know their sheep.

2. You neglect evangelism. I would spend so much time prepping that my mind was mush. I’d drive home or go to meetings in something of a sermon fog. The last thing I was thinking about was evangelism. After all, I have to think up illustrations, propositions, introductions, and conclusions. I have worked so hard in my prep that I deserve time to shut off and get some coveted “me” time (whatever that is). Trouble is, I am to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4.5). This is part of my job as a pastor. I can’t neglect this for anything, regardless of how noble it is. Also, if I neglect missions in my life then I will neglect it in my sermons. This also is catchy. Crazy to think about how what we emphasize in life echoes in the lives of our people.

3. You neglect discipleship. Akin to #1 above guys who spend an inordinate amount of time with their preaching will feel like they do not have time to disciple other guys. This is deadly. It is deadly because it puts a stick in the spokes of the Great Commission that tells us all to make disciples (Matt. 28.19-20). It also undermines any attempt that we would make to tell others to do this. Who is going to train the people to disciple? Are you just going to hire that out? And when people see you not doing it, are they to stop following your example as an elder at that point? (1 Pet. 5.1-4) It all unravels pretty quickly. As pastors, we of all people need to be actively making and training disciples. Preaching is a part of this, but it is not all there is.

4. You neglect leadership. I found myself steadily watching the weekly preaching time increase. Just like a snowball rolling down a big hill, my time in the study was increasing rapidly. Since I know that I cannot regress on my preaching, then I must toss some other things out. What then goes? Well, leadership of overall direction and rhythm. We can once again get disconnected, just as in the situations above. However noble preaching is (and it is), it does not remove pastors from being leaders in their church.

5. You neglect community. One rut I found myself in was that, as my prep time increased to an unreasonable level, my sleep time also joined it. As a result, whenever we’d have people over or visit with others, I’d be losing focus, dreaming of sleep, and not paying real good attention to people’s needs. Not only does this rob others of fellowship with their brother and pastor but it sets a lousy example to my wife, kids and church. And frankly, I need community. I need to hear fresh stories of God’s triumphant grace over sin, I need to hear of how prayer is answered, I need to hear of people’s struggles, I need to hear stories of how people can’t housebreak their dog, I need to hear stories of workplace conflict, and I need to hear stories about visits to Mom and Dad’s house. This is the sharing of life together. Sadly my preaching idol was blocking my view of this.

Conclusion–

I know someone is going to ask how many hours I was spending in my sermon prep. The time is not the big issue—it is the imbalance. In my view, I was not effectively doing these other items because of my emphasis on preaching. If you must know the time, it was between 20-30 hours a week in sermon prep. I am now down to about 10-15 and it has helped in so far as it has also allowed me to focus on these items above (and some other things).

Pastors have a huge weekly burden; every week we walk up to the pulpit and that 168-hour clock starts ticking down again. There is work to be done. At the same time there is more to it than that. The pastoral ministry is more than just a sermon each week. It is an idolatry of preaching that was preventing me from seeing it.

Erik is a pastor at Emmaus Bible Church (EmmausBibleChurch.org), a church plant south of Omaha. Converse with Erik on Twitter at @erikraymond.

Talk about it...

David Buffaloe avatar
David Buffaloe
0 days ago
Doesn't good preaching incorporate each of these elements? Did Jesus command Peter "Feed My sheep"? or "Chase after and beg people to come?" Did the Apostles ask the Church to set aside deacons so they could devote time to "ministry of the Word and prayer"? You can't spend too much time with His Word, nor can you idolize what is already God.
Mark  Kelly avatar
Mark Kelly
0 days ago
Well said! A study I found done, I don't remember by whom, said that the fastest growing churches have preachers that do sermon prep for about 22 hours per week. Then also mentioned that those church pastors involved themselves in at least 5 hours of evangelism.
Sean Harder avatar
Sean Harder
0 days ago
As I sit here prepping two sermons this week I am definitely understanding what you are saying, and need to keep an eye on that. I am also grateful that as David says that all of these elements can be incorporated in preaching. Balance is definitely the key and I think there are many pastors who go to the other extreme and have very little impact from the pulpit. Good thoughts Erik.
Jason Yarbrough avatar
Jason Yarbrough
0 days ago
Absolutely great article. I have seem so many "pastors" over the years excel at public speaking but completely neglect their role as "pastors". Pastoring and Teaching/Preaching are two completely different things!
Suresh Manoharan avatar
Suresh Manoharan
0 days ago
Thanks Bro. Erik for a very pragmatic article borne out of personal experience. It hits the nail on the head.
Stephen Taylor avatar
Stephen Taylor
0 days ago
Each church and flock is different requiring different needs. Also consider the gifts and talents of the pastor. Guess I never have keep close watch on amount of sermon prep time. It varies from week to week. Pastors are called on to fill many roles within the church. Trying to fit set hours to each task is next to impossible.
Gordon Dorsey avatar
Gordon Dorsey
0 days ago
shalom saints this is a excellent article pastors have a love or hate job they love us when we help them and hate us when we preach a message that hits home on them.but what have learned and understand is that we have to preach the message we cannot compremise it for anyone .everyone wants us to be available for them .church members friends family etc........ we cannot please every one and we never will that is the down fall of preaching we cannot please everyone i have exsperienced this already in my young strart BUT i have to stay the course i was chosen for. it`s my job to preach and YAHVAH(GOD) JOB TO TOUCH THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE MEMBERS ,FRIENDS ,FAMILY,ETC.... I NEVER KNEW THE CHALLENGES THAT PREACHING TO BRING BUT AS A MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL IS WE CANT EVER GIVE UP.WE HAVE TO GO FORWARD. SHALOM.
Charles Ingwe avatar
Charles Ingwe
0 days ago
With due respect to all that has been stated by all the servants of God on this article, I wish to say that the inspired scripture Rom 8:14 stands key to me always. It we cry for fellowship with God's spirit always He shall lead us into what we ought to do at a particular time in ministry. My belief is that since the word of God is spirit and life, a truthfully study in sincerity clarifies all aspects of ministry with balance that is shocking. Apart from physical presence of a pastor in members ministry it ought be understood that the spirit can even pave way for delegating. That still falls under effective pastoral ministry for need we not forget that the body of christ is now refered to in the contemporary as a royal priesthood. We are in the era of the ministry of all.
Pastor Sandy . avatar
Pastor Sandy .
0 days ago
Erik - thank you for this heartfelt and thought- provoking article. You are obviously a caring minister, and this will go a long way in your sincere efforts of time management. Blessings on the future of your ministry.
Keith  B avatar
Keith B
0 days ago
Good article. Yes--preaching should be the high point of a pastor's week. You get to stand in front of God's people and proclaim the Word! On the other hand, we can't neglect the sheep on the other 6 days of the week.
Dearl Hardy avatar
Dearl Hardy
0 days ago
I dont want to sound like the Black sheep of the family here but I have a little different thought on this. Of course it is just my belief. First I don't believe you can idolize Gods word in preparing to speak on behalf to Gods people. I don't think you can ever spend to much time in Gods word. It is also the Pastors job to lead the church and yes that includes Shepherding, Evangelism, community etc however that doesn't mean you yourself has to do each task. That is where leadership comes in and your teaching of the scriptures. You should pray that God brings you a few lay Ptors to act as extensions of the Pastors arms and learn to delegate with your ministry so that the church learns to serve God on behalf of the church under you teaching. Then they can do much of the other tasks that you are so occupied with. I have lay pastors that do routine hospital visits and other community functions. they also do home visits when needed. They handle church meetings on my behalf and many other parts of teh ministry so i can dedicate myself to studying Gods word and prayer to be able to deliver Gods message during the service. Jesus clearly told Peter to feed my sheep. We are told to set aside deacons for serving within the ministry. We call them lay pastors but they do a similar function. Sorry for the long comment but it just seems to me maybe you are being a little too hard and demanding of yourself to handle every part of ministry on your own. In doing that you will take all the fun out of being called to serve God. Learn to delegate more and trust God with those helpers. And relax you cannot idolize Gods word, it is already God! Just my opinion of course and with all do respect.

So, what did you think?


Thank you.