One of my gentle readers wrote this post regarding preaching that referenced one or my posts about preaching from around Christmas time. It seems worth discussing a little here. This is the link:
Not Alone: In the Name of Jesus
Here’s the final paragraph:
When this is what God works through sermon preparation, how can I speak of being bored or burned out? For any pastor who finds himself telling himself that he is bored or burned out, all that you really need is to stand back and remember whose Word you are called to preach. Then you will remember the great privilege and blessing of preaching. Then it will not seem like a laborious obligation, but a cause for rejoicing. The preaching office is Christâ€™s office, who Himself counted it a joy to suffer and die on the cross to provide this office with its power. This powerful office that opens the very gates of heaven to you and to all whom it rules over has been entrusted to you, dear pastors! Whenever you imagine that your office is boring or that you have become burned out, remember this! Remember what it really means to be a preacher of the Gospel!
I think it is fair to say that the author basically missed the point. We are not automatons. We are sinner/saints. And as a sinner/saint, I get frustrated, bored, burned out, whatever you want to call it with preaching. Just like anyone in nearly any vocation will not find satisfaction and happiness in the work God has given them to do.
I understand perfectly well the importance of preaching, the joy of preaching, that it is Christ’s office and work, and the like.
I also, by way of comparison, understand the importance of being a father, the joy of fathering, that it is God’s office and work, and the like. But as a human being, I get frustrated, tired, bored, out of energy, and easily distracted.
Why, gentle readers, would it be different for preachers? And furthermore, what is the solution?
I’ll tell you what isn’t the solution. The solution is not a variation of GET OVER IT, BE HAPPY, KNOW HOW IMPORTANT IT IS, or REMEMBER WHAT YOU’RE DOING. Those are all Law, and we know that the Law does not produce good works.
I would suggest that the solution is A) The Gospel. Be forgiven, be fed, hear God’s promises to you. B) Rest. Being a pastor is hard work. It’s not easily measurable, but that does not make it any less easy. Take a break. Breathe. Play. Do something else. And C) Know that you aren’t alone in your trials. Nearly every pastor I know recognizes the challenges of preaching. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Anyway, those are some further thoughts. Have I missed anything?
2 thoughts on “Not Alone: In the Name of Jesus”
Dear gentle pastor,
At least this is my perception of you. Your writing and what you share of yourself does leave me with the impression of gentleness.
You ask: â€œAnyway, those are some further thoughts. Have I missed anything?â€
Yes. You have missed something. I donâ€™t say that as a slap but as an honest answer. You have missed the entire point. You heard the points, but not the heart of the matter. I do not know whether I can express it any more effectively, but it is worth a try.
The heart of the matter is that Gospel itself is the energy or dynamis of preaching. (Romans 1:16)
Your response to my words were:
First, it is different for those who proclaim the Gospel, whether it be the newborn Christian, like the newly converted Saul of Tarsus, or the imprisoned Apostle Paul writing of the joys of his suffering.
And the reason that it is different is that you are correct in saying that it is not a variation of GET OVER IT, BE HAPPY, KNOW HOW IMPORTANT IT IS, or REMEMBER WHAT YOUâ€™RE DOING. And this is NOT what I said.
What I said, and I realize that this distinction is hard to perceive, is that it is a matter of the One who is the preacherâ€™s (and every saintâ€™s) sufficiency and the One in whom we are empowered. It is a matter of the One who is really doing the preaching.
This changes oneâ€™s approach to sermonizing. It is not a matter of choosing to be happy in the knowledge of this, but turning from imagining that preaching is up to oneself to the joy of wrestling with the One who is preaching.
Consider the joy of St. Stephen as he was being stoned to death. Consider the passion of his plea to those who were rejecting the message that he was preaching to them. There was genuine passion, that is, suffering, in his plea and in his prayer for them.
When a preacher, whether it be a seasoned pastor or the inexperienced newly born saint preaching to his friends at work or in his family, when a preacher begins to lose sight of the joy of preaching so that it becomes boring or wearisome, why does this happen? Does one who is excited about the miracle that God has worked in him and about the hope that someone will hear and rejoice with him use such language?
St. Paul writes of how he joyously sacrificed and labored and went without sleep, driven onward by the joy of preaching the Gospel. St. Luke records how when St. Paul was on his way to what he expected to be his end on this earth preached through the night and into the day, stopping only to raise from the dead the poor lad who fell asleep and fell out of the window to his death.
You quoted me as saying:
Then you responded saying:
Dear friend, it is not I who am missing the point. Examine carefully what you say in your response. You say that you believe that anyone, ANYONE, will not find satisfaction and happiness in the work that God has given to be done.
This simply is not true, and I have read you saying the opposite, and rightly so. This is the exact opposite of what God promises. This does not come from faith but from unbelief, especially when it is said about preaching the Gospel.
Such a saying comes from relying upon oneâ€™s own strength. This the opposite of faith in the Gospel.
The Gospel is the power of God. It is limited only by the weakness of the flesh. The Gospel is not received by the flesh, but by the spirit, which rules over the flesh when one walks in spirit. (Galatians 5)
Each of these as they stand stated is an action of the individual. Each is presented in the form of being under the Law. The same could be taken otherwise, but the unintentional tone is that of being under law. This is the reason that pastors complain about being worn down by preaching.
Trusting God is not our work, it is Godâ€™s work that He works in us.
We are the ones that twist believing into an arduous task. When preachers do this to their preaching, the same thing happens.
When a preacherâ€™s perspective becomes twisted so that preaching is viewed as something that he has to do so that he begins to focus on what must be done, he has turned aside from the Gospel to the Law. While he often still steps into the pulpit and preaches grace to the congregation, he preaches Law to himself. Then he truly is under a wearisome burden. He says,
Then the preacher says: â€œI understand perfectly well the importance of preaching, the joy of preaching, that it is Christâ€™s office and work, and the like.â€
But he turns away and immediately says again:
This is why pastors become weary with preaching. When this is how preaching is perceived, who could possibly enjoy it for very long? Who wouldnâ€™t ask how he can keep this up?
This is why I said earlier, â€œRemember what it really means to be a preacher of the Gospel!â€
You know, it is not as though I have not endured the trials and sufferings that accompany the preaching of the Gospel. So when I speak of what God works for me so that I am unable to imagine speaking of being bored or burned out with preaching, it is not empty talk. But then, who am I? I much prefer that you read the book of Acts and the letters of St. Paul. Youâ€™ll find what I am attempting to express stated far better there.
I do pray that pastors who recurrently feel burdened and worn down by the preaching of the Gospel be restored through that same preaching. Godâ€™s peace in Christ Jesus to all who read this.
Iâ€™m not sure that I can keep up with all the streams of thought. But I am concerned about what has been said. I personally will never understand what it is like, or truly comprehend the depth of the pressure being a Pastor may have on an individual. I regret the stress you must endure, and feel guilty â€“ because as a member of your congregation I benefit so much from something that causes you to struggle. What you do is so valuable for me, and for my family and for our community. The Gospel you so carefully consider, and struggle with is truly a lifeline that gives me the ability to go into my world, Monday through Friday, and deal with the stress, doubt and harshness that boxes me in. I cannot give you a direct remedy or even step 1, step 2, step 3 suggestions. But I pray that there may be a way for you to continue to do what you do. I could never tell a Pastor that he must keep doing what he does, but I sure hope that you do. And for whatever it is worth, I encourage you to keep fighting the fight, because it is not in a vacuum. You are not preaching to the wind, you are preaching to me and I value it very much. Thank you Pastor, and I hope that God blesses you and your family with the peace you search for.