Dr. Erwin Lutzer, former senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, shared the following tidbit in his book, “Pastor to Pastor”:
A church janitor was heard to say, “The blower still works, but the fire has gone out.” He was discussing a problem with the furnace, but the parishioner who overheard him thought he was speaking about the pastor.
How does the “fire go out” of our preaching and teaching, though we “keep blowing”?
We lose our sense of expectation.
Theologian James Packer wrote about what happens when preachers lose their sense of expectancy in his book, “Your Father Loves You”:
Have you ever heard of the spiritual disease which people in medieval times called accidie? It is something that threatens all Christian workers after the first flush of enthusiasm has worn off. It’s a form of sloth but not at the physical level. It is apathy of the soul. It shows in a certain toughness of mind and wariness of spirit which often results from hurt and disillusionment.
People with accidie in this sense have grown cynical about ideals, enthusiasms, and strong hopes. They look pityingly at young people and say, “They’ll learn,” taking it for granted that when they’ve learned, they’ll become tough inside too. Once upon a time these leather-souled people were keen, hopeful, and expectant. But nothing happened, or they got hurt, and now they protect themselves against pain by adopting cynical, world-weary attitudes.
If these people are ministers of churches, they work mechanically, merely going through the motions because their light has really gone out and they’re no longer expecting anything exciting to happen. They feel that they know from experience that exciting things don’t happen, and that’s an end of it. So they merely plod on, expecting nothing and receiving nothing.
But the Lord does not send us out on his work in order that nothing may happen. His word is intended to have impact; it’s sent out to accomplish something. We ought never to settle for a non-expectant, defeated attitude. Rather we should be asking and expecting great things from God.
Of all people, preachers should have real and great expectations from preaching or teaching, not because of anything on their part, but because of what they have to work with …
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires, (Hebrews 4:12).
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work, (2 Timothy 3:16-17).