Preaching is not only about communication technique and accurately “dividing the Word”. The best preaching flows from a healthy soul. Let me give you a word picture that might help in illustrating this. We all have a front stage life and a back stage life. Front stage is the public world of ministry. It’s where we’re noticed, where the spotlight is on us, where people applaud and affirm us. It’s where we cast vision, inspire others, and lead with skill. Front stage is all about doing.
But we also have a backstage life, and the two are connected. If we neglect the backstage, eventually the front stage will fall apart. While the front stage is the public world of leadership, the backstage is the private world of the leader. The back stage is private, always dark, and usually messy. The audience isn’t allowed there. Backstage has no spotlight and no glory. Backstage is all about “being.
As ministry leaders, we know how to have front-stage conversations. We can easily converse about attendance and sermons and worship planning and outreach events and volunteers. But where is the conversation about our backstage life? Who is talking to you about you?
Backstage conversations don’t come naturally to most of us. As leaders in the kingdom we may feel a subtle pressure to have it all together. We might even feel the pressure to preach like we have it all together. Talking honestly about the messiness of our private, interior world feels risky. It’s safer to limit the conversation to the front stage. Or we may be so focused on the vision of growing our church that our back stage life isn’t even on our radar. That was true for me for much of my life. I was just so focused on doing and leading and achieving and building that I never gave any thought to my interior life.
When the Wesleyan bands (small groups) got together, the first thing they asked each other was a backstage question: “How is it with your soul?” In forty years of following Jesus I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that question.
For most of my ministry I neglected my backstage life, the care of my soul. After all, front stage is where the action is. But I am learning that the key to the Christian life is found backstage, and the only way to be healthy is to pay attention to it. Staying in love with Jesus is a backstage issue.
This is exactly what Jesus taught—that that the Christian life is inside out, that the private informs the public. He taught that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. He taught that the root (backstage) determines the fruit (front stage).
A good place to start is acknowledging that many of us in leadership have neglected our backstage. Living only for the front stage will not sustain you in ministry for the long haul.
We get up to speak and deep down we know we’re teaching about a life we aren’t living. When ministry needs present themselves, we find ourselves not caring like we used to. Out of obligation and “doing our job,” we go through the motions but our heart isn’t really in it.
We have this gnawing feeling in our gut that something is missing. This isn’t how it was supposed to be. We find ourselves with less joy and more frustration; less compassion and more cynicism. Some days we dream of getting out. And, if the truth were known, we’re not hiding it as well as we think. Those closest to us are beginning to see it.
That’s why it’s so important to learn the art of soul care. For some of us, simply acknowledging we have a soul that needs to be cared for is the first step. One of the most helpful practices I have developed is reading great books that feed my soul (backstage)
Our soul is far and away the most valuable possession we have. Just as you need to tend to your body to be physically healthy, you must tend to your soul if you want to be spiritually healthy. I look forward to connecting with you again next week.