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He waited for me to pause from reviewing my sermon manuscript before the service began. As soon as he saw an opening, he asked, “Do you still get nervous before you preach?”

I answered him emphatically with one word: “Absolutely!”

He was genuinely shocked by my answer. You would assume those who have preached for a long time or who preach regularly eventually get to a place where they are no longer nervous about preaching. Yet even skilled, prepared, and experienced preachers get nervous at preaching time. If they do not, they should.

Maybe the most accurate answer to my preaching brother’s question would have been, “Yes and no.”

An unprepared preacher went to the pulpit, asking the Lord to speak to him. As he stood to preach, the Lord spoke to him and said, “You should have studied!” After hearing that story, I determined I don’t want the Lord to speak to me in the pulpit. I want to make sure we are on the same page before I stand to preach.

A prepared and prayerful preacher can stand to preach with confidence. Of course, the preacher should not be prideful, as if he has mastered scripture, is about to deliver the world’s greatest sermon, or can determine the outcome of the message. But if you have done your homework on the text, wrote yourself clear, and covered the message in believing prayer, you can and should go to the pulpit with confidence.

After you have done all you can do, trust God to do all you cannot do. You should give God your best in sermon preparation, so that you can mount the pulpit with humble confidence. But that still won’t free you from a real sense of fearfulness as you prepare to preach.

No matter how well I have prepared, I cannot escape the reality that the sermon is doomed to fail if the Lord does not help me. It creates a healthy sense of nervousness, even neediness, as I approach the preaching moment. This is one of the reasons why I typically pray publicly before I start the message. I usually cannot shake my pre-sermon anxieties until I have offered the prayer.

Beyond the message itself, the preacher should feel the weight of his duty and privilege to preach the word of God. Christian preaching is not a “talk” given to an audience. It is a call to salvation from the only lifeboat to shipwrecked passengers in troubled waters. We are not “life-coaches” offering people good advice, helpful hints, or motivational speeches. We are heralds on assignment to declare the message of the King. This divine charge should make you nervous to speak the word faithfully, clearly, and unapologetically.

As one of my father’s associate ministers prepared to preach, he confessed he was very nervous. “Good,” was my dad’s reply. “And when you stop getting nervous before you preach, you should stop preaching.”

Do you get nervous before you preach?

 

 



H.B. Charles, Jr. is the Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida, where he has served since the fall of 2008. He is primarily responsible for preaching-teaching, vision casting, and leadership development – along with all the other tasks that are a part of pastoral ministry.

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Doug Knox

commented on Nov 18, 2016

The short answer--Absolutely! I have days when I ask the Lord, "What am I doing here?" If I have done the hard work involved with prayer and preparation, I can expect him to bless the message. But I still wonder why he chose me. Thank you, Pastor Charles, for a great column.

James Hamilton

commented on Nov 18, 2016

To be perfectly honest, no. I don't put it on me, I put it on God; He called me to the task and I know as long as I stay out of the way He will be heard. When I first started I was nervous but I discovered I was leaving out my greatest assistant, actually I am His.

Lawrence Webb

commented on Nov 18, 2016

Maybe I'm just not holy enough, but I've never understood the prayer, "Hide me behind the sacred cross. Help them not to see me, but see Jesus." Jesus isn't standing up there on the rostrum. Jesus will use what I offer, but it's my mind that prepares the thoughts and my voice and my body that deliver the message. Direct answer to the question: In some settings, I get nervous. In other settings, I am more comfortable over all and am not nervous. But I've heard many speech teachers say everyone should feel some nervousness or apprehension in anticipation of speaking in front of a group, in church or elsewhere. It's a psychological preparedness step.

Steve Dunning

commented on Nov 18, 2016

I've been a pastor for 13 years, 11 at the same church that I am at now. Yes, I get nervous every time I head for the pulpit. I've gotten past the stuttering and stammering that used to come thru when I first started but my Father has called me to a very high calling... and I feel the gravity of that every time. But I do love it and wouldn't trade it for anything. Thank you Pastor for sharing!

Ray Smith

commented on Nov 19, 2016

Do I get nervous before I preach the answer is I do not, but I do get anxious, is this the message the Lord wants me to preach, have I heard the Lord correctly. The reason I do not get nervous is not because I am proud but I place my trust in my Lord and I am open to the power of the Holy Spirit. There have been occasions when I have prepared my sermon, printed it and been waiting to deliver it and the Lord has said don't preach that sermon on one occasion the person who was reading the passage knocked my notes off the lectern. I clearly heard the Lord say leave it there, I picked the notes up and he said do not preach that sermon preach that passage from your heart open yourself up let them hear how I got you that circumstance. When I had finished three couples came up to me in tears and said thank you. I was not nervous but anxious on how God was going to use me, my words have to be God's and we have to trust him and spend time in prayer but most importantly listen to what God is saying to us.

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