Preaching Articles

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.

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

Talk about it...

Dean Cook

commented on Feb 6, 2016

Great article. I did not take care of my soul properly as a pastor and paid a great price. And it wasn't until I left the church I was at then that anyone asked how my soul was. And that was a co-worker (I was a bivocational pastor), not a church member or leader. Very important advice in this article. Thank you,

Charles Domingue

commented on Feb 6, 2016

Thank you, Lance for providing this accountability. I am going to Amazon to get your book!

Lawrence Webb

commented on Feb 6, 2016

To use your terminology, perhaps inadequate backstage life results in the cases we hear of suicides, infidelity, and other crises in the ministry. I suppose we all face that dangerous possibility.

David Nwogu

commented on Feb 8, 2016

Thanks Lance for a timely warning against this perilous spiritual blunder that almost ruined my life. The Lord saw it the most important thing to save my soul before the calling into ministry. Thanks for the elderly ministers who give room for soul -survey in our conferences. Again, thank you.

Lenworth Henningham

commented on Feb 10, 2016

Thank you for sharing words of wisdom. In these times it is extremely important to ensure that our souls are taken care of. I was prophesied to just recently that I am being called to the forefront of the ministry, to be a pastor, and I am humbling myself as I allow God to do whatsoever He wishes. My main issue that was preventing my spiritual growth was reading. Even though I am repeated told that I read very well it was just boring to me. It wasn't until I prayed about it that I found myself having a little interest in reading, especially things relating to the Gospel of Jesus and it was in so doing that spiritual growth began. I thank you for these words as I endeavour to continue to grow in grace and allow the Master to use me. Continue to share!

Keith Mathekga

commented on Feb 10, 2016

Awesome article, thanks for this Lance, I really feel challenged personally to really care for my soul. Thanks once more.

Gbolahan Akinola

commented on Feb 19, 2016

Thank so much Lance, am really blessed by this piece. I think it is more helpful for us to have a good and sincere accountability team among friends and colleagues, especially as pastors and leaders. it helps to keep us in check and helps to develop a healthy inner being. Am making a decision to rebuild that system around me, I used to have it, it really helped me.

Ami Prasad

commented on Jul 2, 2018

Thank you so much Lance. great piece of advise. many times the back stage life is left unattended though may not be intentionally but definitely needs more attention to really see fruits in the front stage.

Len Kinzel

commented on Jul 3, 2018

I regularly drive people nuts by asking, "How's your soul?" I rarely get much of a reply. To illustrate how damaged my own soul is, part of my motivation in asking that question is to try to get someone to genuinely ask it back to me -- in a way that leads me to believe he or she is ready to settle in to really listen to my answer.

Dane Skelton

commented on Aug 3, 2020

This article is dead on the money and I appreciate that you wrote it. I think I've worked through 3 burnouts over 28 years. I know I've worked through several tragedies, two major conflicts--one of which cost me my job as assoc. pastor--and two major personal family crises where we almost lost one daughter to anorexia and discovered another had been sexually abused by a close relative when she was a child. My soul felt like it had been run over by a bus, many times. Besides daily wrestling with God, four things helped most: A supportive elder board; deep reading in many books of which Dallas Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines, M. Craig Barne's When God Interrupts, Phillip Yancey's Where is God When it Hurts? and Chuck Swindoll's Living Beyond the Daily Grind; and Lewis Smede's Forgive and Forget (stupid publisher title. Subtitle is accurate: Healing From the Hurts We Don't Deserve); a brother or close friend not associated with the church that I could unload on; and perhaps most important - two month-long sabbaticals that enabled my soul to recover. May God give you all the support I've had over the years.

Andre E Bullock Sr

commented on Dec 26, 2020

I agree with you that we are three part beings and the word of God states that. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 - Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I do not believe you must tend to your Soul to be Spiritually healthy. I believe that we are Spiritually healthy once we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. According to: 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. I am now a new creation, where in my Spirit, and according to: Ephesians 1:13 - In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Thus my Spirit has been redeemed. My spirit is complete and sealed. This is how GOD now sees me. This is how I now worship HIM in Spirit and in Truth. The same Spirit I sit here with today is the same Spirit I will have throughout eternity. The rest of my Christian life is learning who I am in the Spirit, renewing my mind to the Word of God. That is what my Soul needs and where the Soul care should come from. I feed my Soul by learning who I am in the Spirit. Romans 12:1-2 - I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. The more that I renew my mind (Soul) to the Word of GOD (Spirit) the better my life will be! This is what makes us Disciples, we have to continue in the Word. Continually feed our Souls. 3 John 2 - Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. Peace and wellness

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