I love preaching. I love to preach myself, and I love to hear others preach.
Preaching is a God-ordained means of grace (1 & 2 Timothy). It is a good gift of God given for our blessing and benefit. But like so many blessings from God, we can elevate it to become a distraction or even an idol.
In my young pastoral career (seven years), I have seen some unintended consequences of my love for preaching. I have observed a few ways in which my love for preaching has hurt our church. These observations do not diminish my love, appreciation, or priority of preaching. Instead, they helped me to regain pastoral balance and focus.
Here are a few ways in which the idolatry of preaching can hurt your church:
1. You neglect shepherding.
Pastors are called to shepherd (1 Pet. 5:1ff). “Shepherd” is both a noun and a verb; it characterizes who we are and what we do.
The Great Shepherd knows his sheep (John 10:14), and therefore, we as undershepherds must know the sheep. If we are holed up in a study for countless hours with little to no contact with the general sheep population, we are not much of a shepherd. In fact, we would look a lot more like a pulpit supply guy than a local church pastor.
An unbalanced love for preaching could actually cause you to abrogate your responsibility as a shepherd. This is something that we as pastors will answer for, and “But Lord, I was reading commentaries!” is not a good excuse. We are called to be shepherds. Shepherds are those who preach to and actually know their sheep.
2. You neglect evangelism.
I would spend so much time prepping that my mind was mush. I’d drive home or go to meetings in something of a sermon fog. The last thing I was thinking about was evangelism. After all, I have to think up illustrations, propositions, introductions, and conclusions. I have worked so hard in my prep that I deserve time to shut off and get some coveted “me” time (whatever that is).
The trouble is I am to “do the work of an evangelist.” (2 Tim. 4:5) This is part of my job as a pastor. I can’t neglect this for anything, regardless of how noble it is.
Also, if I neglect missions in my life, then I will neglect them in my sermons. It’s crazy to think about how what we emphasize in life echoes in the lives of our people.