My wife was a birthing rock star. As she progressed through the pains of labor all the way to that last exhausting push – after each of our four kids, she emerged glowing and proud – a smile on her face that seemed to welcome the challenge of delivery as much as welcoming that little human being that was now breathing air for the first time. Not to mention the lady did it three of the four times with no drugs and no help from a hospital. I was merely an observer, at best an emotional support and cheerleader for her.
Regular preaching and teaching is kind of like giving birth in its own way. It starts privately in the joyful and deep understanding and conceiving of ideas to share out of the Scriptures. Then comes the often grueling labor pains of discovering the author’s intended meaning while drawing out helpful applications for today. And finally comes the exhilarating and exhausting thrill of pushing your message out into the world for the first time. You hear it cry, it takes a breath, your sermon is presented to the world.
Can you relate to this process? It takes special people to dedicate their lives, or a part of their lives, to this all together critical ministry in the Church. Do you welcome the challenge? Crave the uncertainty? Thrive in the risk of such an immense task? I can only be a cheerleader for you, an observer really, but I have learned a couple of things in the past two decades that might help you enjoy the process as much as my wife enjoyed her adventures in actually giving birth.
Enjoy the Process
What happens on a weekend when you are preaching is really won or lost in the time you have given to your sermon prep. You should be the foremost expert on the subject matter you are preaching. If you skimp here, it will show.
I’m not going to tell you how to prepare in this article, but here is a quick pointer: Start from your biblical text. It will tell you where to go. Don’t neglect the necessary hours needed to pull out the biblical authors intended meaning of the text. Once you get a handle on that, consult other experts through books and commentaries that are sound and trusted, to make sure you are also on point. And be sure to work extra hard in explaining and illustrating how your text integrates into our lives. Think about it this way – how does this text change your life – yours, not your congregation’s? Be vulnerable and open about that. Your congregation usually only goes as far as you do. Ok, well, that was a little more of that cheerleading there.
Pray it up.
Don’t neglect the opportunity that you have to avail yourself to God’s power and strength. Cover the entire process of labor and delivery of your sermon in prayer but talking to God frequently about the process, and how His Word is changing you.
Preaching the Word of God is a Holy moment – but it doesn’t need to be stiff. God invented fun, too, so now that you have put in the work and put in the prayer, enjoy the exhilaration of pushing new life into the world and smile as it breathes air for the first time.
Pastor Patrick Linnell is the author of Grace Bomb: The Surprising Impact of Loving Your Neighbors 2021, David C. Cook, and founder of Grace Bomb, a movement and ministry that equips churches around the country.