Preaching Articles

While I’m preaching, there are myriads of thoughts racing through my head. Some of which include:

Why is that baby crying? Are they crying because I’m too loud? Or because they didn’t like that joke? Or because it’s too dark? Or too bright? Or…oh, wait, it’s because they’re probably tired. Good thing they’re not falling asleep during my sermon like the guy behind them.

Why did he just get up to leave? Bathroom break? Am I going that long? Should I call him out right here and now? Nah…or wait. That might be funny. Or offensive. Probably offensive. But probably funny, too.

Why didn’t she turn her cell phone off? Hmm…I wonder who’s calling her? Wait…is she answering that phone? What’s she whispering? I wish she’d speak up so I can hear what she’s saying.

Uh oh…I’m going to go long with this sermon. Should I cut something out? Or make them sweat if I’ll ever be done?

I may be alone in how much my mind can often wander during a given sermon. But somehow, I think I’m not. And I’m willing to bet that most pastors believe these lies while they’re preaching:

9 Lies Pastors Believe While They’re Preaching

1. Man, this sermon is awesome. In fact, all of my sermons are awesome!

Whoa there, Desperado. You’re not as great as you think. Jump on down from your high horse. Some weeks are good and others are, well, not so good. Accept it.

2. The person shaking their head in affirmation is actually listening.

Sometimes they are. But sometimes they’re just trying to keep from falling asleep. Don’t take it personally. And don’t use that moment to slide in your every-other-week “You shouldn’t stay out late on the night before church” points.

3. Everyone likes me.

Not the guy who stands out in the hallway every week. He doesn’t. Never has. And until you preach a message aimed at engaging him, he probably never will. OR…you could just try to have a normal conversation with him in the hallway. Either way…

4. “Amen!” guy is so zoned in to what I’m saying. It’s as if we were cut from the same cloth.

I heard an “Amen!” guy at a church I once attended who “Amen”-ed every single point. He didn’t know when to stop. So he didn’t. I think I even heard him “Amen!”-ing in the parking lot.

5. I can do it all. If only I could clone me…

Stop it. Stop it right there. You’re doing one thing in this moment. You’re preaching. If you’re also slated to do the music for the day, every visitor follow-up throughout the week, and every prayer preceding the potlucks, it’s time to share some responsibility. You’re not good at everything. And if you think you are, then that might be one of the reasons your church isn’t growing as quickly as it could. (Whoops…did I take that one too far? Sorry…)

6. They’re actually taking notes!

I saw some of our handouts from this Sunday. Doodling. A couple of notes. Then they left it under their seat after the service. Don’t kid yourself.

7. If I say this point with more force, you’re more likely to remember it.

Just keep trying. Use a megaphone if you want. Or better yet, start yelling from the top of the sermon to the bottom. It’s all important, right? Then do your vocal warm-ups and let 'em rip. And watch 'em grab the ear plugs on their way in, too.

8. If I go long, people will love me for it.

Nope. If you go long, people will wonder how long you can actually go. And they’ll also be lamenting the fact that the Methodists are going to beat them to lunch today.

9. If I go short, people will judge me and wonder what I did all week.

Nope. If you go short, they’ll be the ones beating the Methodists to the buffet. And you’ll be their favorite preacher.

Why share this? Why smack pastors in the face a bit?

Because we’re humans, too. We’re prone to thinking too much of ourselves, taking ourselves too seriously, thinking everyone cares about intricate theology as much as we do, and prone to spiraling downward into self-glorification.

The more we can pursue humility, making less of ourselves and our gifts and our talents and our insights and our winsomeness…and make more of the God who gives us life and breath and everything, the better off we are. And the better off our congregations are, too.

Time to quit believing the lies. Time to preach faithfully the message God’s given us. Time to remind ourselves who the King really is.

Ben is the small groups pastor at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, TN. He blogs regularly at Life and Theology, wrestling through subjects such as small groups, parenting, leadership, social networking, and counseling…all from a distinctively biblical point of view.

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Talk about it...

David Parks

commented on Aug 17, 2012

Thanks for the humorous lift. It was very thought-provoking. I was also fascinated to discover that I'm not the only one that has strange thoughts running through my head while I'm preaching. :-)

Sam Schmidt

commented on Aug 17, 2012

While I honestly believe rebuking is necessary from time to time, I don't know that I care for this article at all. I am a bi-vocational pastor, working three OTHER jobs, (funeral home, police department, and substitute teaching), trying to balance, raise, and provide for a family, taking 12 hours of online graduate studies, going on weekly visitations to check on our shut-ins and afflicted, wanting to spend some time with my better half in there somewhere, all the while wondering if I will ever get a chance to just breathe. And somewhere in there I am supposed to preach and teach three life-changing messages every week, teach Sunday School and drive a church van picking up kids every Sunday morning and Wednesday night because I am the only van driver. I am not completely sure regarding other denominations, but I know the greater portion of Southern Baptist pastors are bi-vocational, like myself. Being so, I hazard a guess I am a dime a dozen regarding workload. Most pastors are like myself. We don't need this. We know we are woefully inadequate. We know on our own there is nothing productive we can do outside the leading of the Holy Spirit. We know we're sinners and we've made mistakes in life. We know we're not great preachers like the "titans" of the faith. However we know we've got a call on our life, and we know the pats we get on the back aren't going to come in this life, but when we see Our Savior tell us, "Well done thou good and faithful servant." We don't need "smacks in the face" from brothers and sisters because we are getting "smacked in the face" every week from our churches, from the world and everything we encounter. Let's preach and teach the Good News of Jesus Christ, and leave the "smacking of the face" to God.

Sam Schmidt

commented on Aug 17, 2012

Also, as a brother in Christ I would be very leary of using the word "you" so much. Stick with we, us and our when possible. Using "you" so much can seem very condescending, self-centered, and looking down on those who are around us. We are not above anyone, regardless of the size of our church roster. Perhaps you should take that point from your last article and put it into practice.

Spencer Miller

commented on Aug 17, 2012

Point number one is a subject all by itself, please deliver me from the narcissistic pastor. If I've seen one I have seen too many. They are the ones who become quite angry when others do not recognize their perceived special-ness. Their sermon may indeed be an awesome one but they cheat the Holy Spirit when they start to think it was because of their own ability and strength.

David Parks

commented on Aug 17, 2012

Brother Sam, I don't think this article was intended for preachers in situations like yours. I still recall the early years when I ministered in small congregations. I found the challenges to be much more difficult in that environment. You often have little or no help. The time challenges are overwhelming. In addition to all of this one negative personality can do so much damage to your self-confidence in a setting like that, that you find yourself questioning your calling. Then there is the constant financial pressure you are working under. --- On the other hand many of us have known preachers who need to soak their heads in Epsom salts to bring down the swelling. These are the ones I assume the author is referring to. Many of us labored for years in congregations that were painful and destructive to our self-confidence. Now that we are laboring in congregations that support us well financially and are a constant encouragement to us we must never forget that it's all about Jesus and his gospel. And that without Him we can do nothing of eternal consequence.

Charles Wallis

commented on Aug 17, 2012

God bless you Sam for serving the Lord with great sacrifice. I have reminded myself this week that it is honor to speak on behalf of God no matter how many people are there - and they put up with me! I am usually excited about every sermon I preach, and sometimes I may get too excited and need to step back and reflect that it is not my words that matter, but God's. But I still get excited about preaching. Thanks for the reminder to not get so excited about what I want to say, but what God wants to say the people. I am trying to share the blessing with others instead of doing o much myself and it is a blessing to see others used by God. I also think short sermons can be good, but I have also heard some amazing sermons that went long. It is up to God I think. I also think people sometimes say amen for someone else, not for themselves, and preachers who need a lot of amens are looking for validation from people more than God. I know I have dropped a few bombs - trying to always do better and learn from the others.

Zachary Bartels

commented on Aug 17, 2012

Thanks so much! This morning I totally thought I was awesome. Now I realize no one is taking notes, no one likes me, no one is listening, and it's all for nought! Huzzah!!!

Dana Gatewood

commented on Aug 17, 2012

All preachers, me included, need these reminders that the church isn't about us. God blesses the church in spite of us. Great article!

Steve Dunning

commented on Aug 17, 2012

Amen! Thanks for sharing.

David Parks

commented on Aug 17, 2012

Like, dude, I thought I was, like, totally awesome. You know? Then I read this article (voice goes up half and octave on the word article) and then I remembered "As it is written, "he that glories, let him glory in the Lord.'"

James Kennedy

commented on Aug 17, 2012

Could not agree with Sam more. I signed up for email alerts that are supposed to strengthen me in the calling God has for me and this is what I get? I will be unsubscribing from sermon central. Very disappointed in this article!

Zachary Bartels

commented on Aug 17, 2012

Apparently David doesn't know what an octave is and that half of one would pretty much be ordinary pitch modulation during regular speech. Or how to make a discernible point.

Brad Brought

commented on Aug 17, 2012

Pastor Reed, I enjoyed the writing. I understand where some of the others may be getting frustrated, but if I had to guess, you meant this to be on the lighter, more humorous side than some of the others perceived it. Thank you for putting yourself out there, and Lord bless you brother.

Cameron Madsen

commented on Aug 18, 2012

Thanks Ben for the insight. I see the point and it can be funny, but the serious reminder to "bring every thought captive to Christ" is appropriate all the time. Yes, thoughts like the examples given will distract from being obedient to God and grieve the Holy Spirit. Thanks

David Parks

commented on Aug 18, 2012

Dear Zachary, I'm sorry that my post offended you. Ironically I do know what an octave is. My original vocational goal was to attend Ohio State University and become a high school music director. I achieved the rank of master musician while in high school, having taken summer courses in music theory, composition, and conducting. Later as I trained for the ministry in an A cappella church I studied music theory in college and now teach music theory to congregations. I was attempting (apparently rather poorly) to make a humorous point about the futility of preachers claiming credit for their God-given abilities and opportunities of ministry. When a person speaks the volume, tempo and pitch normally rises toward the middle of the sentence and descends toward the end of the sentence. If the sentence is a question then the speaker?s inflection normally rises at the end of the sentence. In contrast, the stereo typical Valley Girl ends every sentence as if it were a question by raising the pitch at the end of the sentence. My intention was to use Valley Girl talk to make a valid point on a humorous note. Again I'm sorry that I offended you. I'm sorry that I failed to let my speech be, ?with grace and seasoned with salt.?

Andrew Shields

commented on Aug 20, 2012

Sam and James. I do not think this is an agressively critical piece. Sometimes we let our calling turn into our own fan club of one. The truth in Ben's article about needing affirmation while preaching is strong. Sam be careful in doing so much that you get wore down to the point of being over-sensitive and defensive. Doing too much work is a big problem. As a pastor remember building others into leadership, getting others involved in vision helps the church and you now, and helps the church know what to do someday when you are gone. Look up the author dennis bickers. He has been where you are and writes well about it. God bless you both

Shawn Kadlecik

commented on Aug 20, 2012

Hilarious article! If I cant laugh at myself then I am in big trouble. For all us preachers out there that think we need to do everything, that knock on the door you will soon hear..that's burn out. It coming to wreak havoc in your marriage, your children, your body, and the ministry. Delegate! Delegate! Delegate!

Patricia Fennell

commented on Aug 20, 2012

I personally thought this was hilarious and truly on point. We (ministers, pastors, leaders) do need to sometimes take a step back. I think Pastor Ben did a fabulous job of reminding us we aren't the superheroes we sometimes think we are in a funny, entertaining and humorous way. By no means was it to belittle, discourage or isolate anyone. Be honest with yourselves and lighten up! :0)

Eileen Gauvin

commented on Aug 30, 2012

Hey one and All I thought it was all great.. I don't think he meant to be insulting...I think its kind of like a lay person... (me) ..I go to church on sundays and listen to the ministers sermon..I tyake out of it what I need in my life someone else will take out of it what they need ..Sometimes its a slap in the face that i needed and didn't realizeit at the time..My point is not everything you read it directed at you and only you..Its all about Him Jesus...You guys are all preachers ..Stick together guys alotta lay persons are reading this .. blogg God Bless ..Keep up the Good Work Everyone My Hats off 2 you all !!

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