Pastors face a lot of pressure to perform. Some of it, admittedly, is self-imposed.
One of the main places this pressure is felt is in the demand to research, write and deliver a great sermon every week.
In fact, several times in the last few months, I’ve read blog posts that have suggested that every Sunday sermon should be like a TED Talk.
In today’s post, I’d like to do two things that may seem impossible to accomplish simultaneously.
1. Relieve some of the performance pressure
2. Challenge us all toward something better
But first, let me answer a question that many of you may be asking.
What’s a TED Talk?
TED Talks are presentations made at TED conferences. They’re delivered by some very high-end experts to a roomful of high-level achievers.
A TED conference is so exclusive that you can’t even attend it until you submit an application for them to evaluate. If you’re deemed worthy to attend, you then have the privilege of paying the $7,500 registration fee. No, that’s not a typo. $7,500. And that’s just for the conference registration.
TED started 30 years ago as an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design. But it has grown from that into a leading-edge clearinghouse for the latest ideas and innovations.
So how do I, a lowly Small Church pastor, know about such exclusive things? Because, after they’re delivered, TED Talks are uploaded to the internet where anyone can watch them for free.
We Don’t Expect a Weekly TED Talk
I’ve watched several TED Talks. They’re impressive. For $7,500, they’d better be.
TED speakers have six rules they must follow:
1. Distill your life’s work or experience into a 3-, 6-, 9- or 18-minute talk.
2. Be authentic/vulnerable.
3. Convey one strong idea.
4. Tell a story that hasn’t been told before.
5. Tell and not sell.
6. Absolutely and positively stick to the time limit.
After watching and learning from several TED Talks and looking over that list, I agree that TED Talks are great, the rules make sense and everyone who speaks to an audience can learn something from them.
But how could anyone seriously ask pastors to pull off the equivalent of a TED Talk every Sunday? That’s 40-50 TED Talks every year on a different subject every week, for the same people who’ve heard each of the previous talks.
Sure, points 2, 3, 5 & 6 are something we should always strive for. But points 1 and 4? I think I could maybe put together one TED-level Talk. No, not one a week. Not one a year. One and done. Which is all most TED speakers are ever asked to do.
So here’s the let-the-pastor-off-the-hook part.
No pastor should be held, or should hold themselves to standards like that. They’re easy to ask for, but they’ll kill you if you try to fulfill them.
And they’re entirely unnecessary. No one needs a TED Talk from their pastor every week.
But here’s what we do need. Whether we’re a spiritual seeker, a new believer, a frustrated church member or a mature disciple, we want one thing from our pastor’s sermon above all else…
We Need a Heartfelt God-and-You Talk
When we come to your church, we don’t expect a $7,500 sermon. Given current offering stats, most people aren’t even expecting a $75 one.
We need to know you have a growing relationship with Jesus because you’re willing to share some of it with us every week.
We need you to:
a. Tell us how you struggled with or learned from the Bible this week.
b. Share the rock-solid foundational truths that hold you strong when your life gets hard.
c. Tell us when God and his Word break your heart or lift your spirit.
d. Show us when the Lord shows you something you never saw before.
e. Be real and vulnerable about your relationship with Jesus.
We don’t expect mind-blowing hermeneutical and homiletical acrobatics. Most of us don’t even know what those words mean. Any pastor who’s sharing a new, heart-wrenching spiritual breakthrough or trauma every week should be talking to a therapist, not their congregation.
But what is pastoral leadership if not sharing your spiritual growth with your congregation?
Genuine Matters More that Spectacular
There are too many phony, shallow pastors in the world. We don’t need another celebrity speaker to dazzle us. We need a humble shepherd who’s willing to be vulnerable. We need the real deal.
No, we don’t expect every word from your lips to be original and unique. So yes, we’re OK with you sharing what you learned from someone else’s book or conference. But please don’t cut-and-paste someone else’s research, experience or story onto yours and pass it off as your own.
A genuine expression from where your heart has met or is struggling with the heart of God is more helpful than a finely crafted sermon that someone else wrote.
Your voice matters.
We can learn something that applies to our lives when we hear a genuine expression of your faith and your life through your voice.
We want to be led by that kind of person. We want to be pastored by that kind of pastor.
So what do you think? Have you struggled with unrealistic expectations about your preaching? How do you handle it?