One of the main duties of a pastor is to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Many pastors, however, often feel great anxiety before preaching God’s Word and sometimes feel great depression when the sermon was not a home-run.
Paul’s exhortation to Timothy often gives me great encouragement whenever I feel that I “bombed” a sermon: “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress” (1 Tim. 4:15). Paul is telling the young preacher Timothy that you do not have to be perfect in the ministry (which includes preaching), but you must be progressing. Here are some reminders that I give myself to continue progressing in the ministry of the Word:
If you want to progress in the ministry of the Word, just preach! Paul also told Timothy not only to preach the Word, but to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). Whatever opportunity you get; whether in a Sunday School, or in a children’s Bible study, or during a Sunday evening prayer service, take the opportunity to serve God’s people and learn from your mistakes! Practice makes perfect (or progression)!
We cannot accomplish anything apart from God’s enabling strength (Jn. 15:5). Pray before, during, and after your sermon. Pray that God would affect your own heart with the truths you are going to preach. Pray that God would affect your listeners so that they would love Christ more. Pray that unbelievers present would receive the gospel. Pray that God would use a weak vessel to bring him much glory. Pray that God would keep your heart fresh in the love of Christ Sunday after Sunday.
A good preacher will have the humility to receive feedback. Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one understands obtain guidance.” This means you should ask your fellow elders, leaders, or members to give you feedback on your sermon. But do not only ask for feedback, but ask for specific feedback regarding sermon delivery, content, or any ways to improve so that you can serve your people better next Sunday.
A good preacher will not only have the humility to receive feedback, but continue to learn from other great preachers. Whether through reading good preaching books, or listening to audio of great preachers, or sitting under the preaching and teaching of great men of God, use every means possible to learn preaching! We learn to preach better by both instruction and example. Good preachers are constantly learning and refining.
Rest on the power of the Scripture and the Spirit to convict, encourage, and exhort God’s people. Remember it is the Word of God that “is living and active , sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, and of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12-13). The power is not in our eloquence, homiletics, or well crafted sermon outlines; but in the inspired Word of God to regenerate sinners and sanctify the saints.
God does not want us to be perfect preachers. He wants us to be progressing preachers whether you are twenty years old or sixty years old. He wants us to be humble preachers who progress by practicing, praying, inviting, learning, and resting in his sovereign power.