This has been a year for me! I’ve had a serious car accident, had heart bypass surgery and now have a parent who is in the last days of battling a terminal illness. All of these have impacted me and probably my preaching.
One of the tough things about preaching is that while standing in front of people proclaiming the Word of God, you have to live life. And we all know that life comes with crisis. In other vocations life can be segmented a little more. But we all know that preaching is a time when we bare our soul a little and if the soul is raw, how effective can we be?
First let me say, there may be times when you just have to take a break. Some physical struggles, or losses may be so big that we become a distraction to the message. We want to give our people a window into what we’re going through, but we don’t want to make them live through it. A sermon is not our time to make people carry our burdens. But it is a time when we can help people see how God carries our burdens.
So, how do we continue to minister this way when we feel like we need to be ministered to?
1. Make sure you have people you’re talking to. If you don’t have an outlet for the emotions and the processing of crises, you will be tempted to do it all in the pulpit. So surround yourself with people who will care for you individually.
2. Don’t let your emotions direct your preaching. Your emotions will show from time to time. People understand that and even appreciate it. But you can begin to preach toward your emotions. You can even try to use your emotions to get people to respond. That can border on manipulation and after a time, people will weary of it.
3. On a similar note, don’t shortcut your study. When things are tough, I’m tempted to get more “devotional” in my preaching. We may struggle to get deep into study. But remember, that is where the gold is found. It is in intentional study that you will find strength for yourself and others who are watching you.
4. If you have a preaching plan, which you should, stick to it. Don’t let your personal struggles become the driving force of what you should preach. We are shepherds of the whole flock. God is the shepherd of our soul.
5. Each week, let the Word of God speak to you. Let the sermon first lift you out of your struggle, put your feet on firm ground and secure you in God’s grace. And then let it do that for others. In this, your sermons will become powerful, personal and hopeful.
6. Lastly, if your crisis is too big, ask for help! You may need some time off to take care of personal needs. This can be a model for our people too. Have a trusted church leader advise you on when your personal trial may be too big for the pulpit to handle. And then listen to that advice!
My prayer is that as you serve in the midst of personal crisis, you will experience the riches of the God’s grace through His word and His people. And I pray that through our suffering, people will find the hope of Christ in their suffering.