Anybody who knows me probably knows I love to preach. I so clearly knew God’s calling many years ago that only disobedience would allow me to ignore preaching today.
To be candid, though, preaching scares me. Here’s why:
- I will answer to God for what I say. As a 13-year-old, I strongly sensed God’s guiding me: “I want you to preach My Word.” I know God will hold me accountable for every word I say, and He will not ignore any carelessness from my lips (Matt. 12:36-37). Recklessness in preaching is an invitation to judgment.
- What I do affects eternity. Here I am not suggesting that my preaching somehow trumps the sovereignty of God. On the contrary, I am simply aware that God uses the proclamation of His Word to save souls (Rom. 10:9-15). That truth means that preaching really does have an eternal impact.
- I may have only one opportunity to speak truth to a hearer. A nonbeliever (or a believer, for that matter) may sit under my preaching only one time. In the midst of a busy life, he/she may offer listening ears for only a few minutes. I will miss that one-time open door if my preaching wanders from the Word.
- It’s easier to talk about “stuff” than it is to teach the Word. Preaching is hard work. From personal exegesis of the text to public proclamation of the message, preachers must dig into the Word, soak in it, be cleansed by it and then deliver it. It’s just easier to use a few Bible verses as a launching pad to preach about “stuff” than to do the hard work of Bible exposition—and that reality scares me.
- At least for a few minutes, everybody is focused on me. Maybe I’m uniquely fallen, but I like the affirmations that come with preaching. For a short while, I am the “man of God” to whom others look for truth. Yes, I want my preaching to direct them to Jesus, but I must be honest with myself: Preaching frightens me because it can instead become a means to build my ego.
- I can preach in my own strength. I’ve been preaching for 38 years, 33 of those in full-time ministry. I have two graduate degrees from a seminary, and I’ve taught preaching courses. What frightens me is that I can rely on my training, my knowledge and my experience when I preach—and completely lack the power and blessing of God.