Many of my friends have confessed that occasionally they lose the passion in their preaching. In fact, most preachers have experienced this at least once in their ministry. Though few openly admit this, it is a secret that can’t be hidden, because its symptoms eventually diminish the power of a pastor’s preaching.
I remember reading several years ago about the account of a man who sat listening to a sermon, uneasy about the emotions he was feeling. The worship experience had been excellent; the sermon was well thought out, understandable and even applicable. Yet, as he listened, the man felt an unshakable sense of boredom. Where did it come from? He wondered why he felt no enthusiasm about the challenge of this message. It was well into the sermon when suddenly it dawned on him: He was bored because the pastor was bored—with another Sunday morning that demanded another 20-minute message delivered out of duty and without passion.
If you have lost the passion in your preaching, or if you sometimes find yourself preaching only because “Sunday is coming,” I hope the following three suggestions will help you begin a journey of restoring that passion.
1. Rethink Your Preparation Process
Years ago, one of our Dynamic Communicator Workshop students made a thought-provoking statement that I will never forget. He said, “I do not study that I might preach, but because I study, I must preach.”
Wow! Perhaps if we studied with the intent of meeting God rather than preparing for a performance, if we excitedly looked forward to field-testing the truth in our own lives, then we would not only talk about the truth—we could testify to the truth.
When our study makes an impact on our lives, it can’t help but make us passionate about the message. Then the work of putting structure to that message is a joy. If we experience the adventure of living out our relationship with Christ in the fabric of our lives, then the power of our preaching will show it. If our relationship with Christ is dynamic, then we can expect our audience to feel it. If not, they will hear only static.
From conversations with our students, my pastor friends and from my own experience, I have come to believe that passionate preaching is the natural byproduct of an ongoing, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Too often, we become immersed in the business of running a church, preparing messages, putting out fires, counseling and, yes, even winning souls, and we forget that the foundation of our passion is relationship—our own relationship with Christ.
2. Lean on the Spirit
The responsibility of preaching the Gospel is daunting. The thought of doing it every week boggles my mind. Take that weight on your own shoulders, and the stage is set for burnout. All of us have days when we don’t feel the passion, when in spite of our careful preparation and strong conviction, we stumble over words and lose our train of thought. There is something about depending on the Spirit of God to do what you can’t that brings supernatural confidence and passion to preaching. Suggesting that we lean on the Spirit is not an excuse to skip the hard work of preparation, but to ignore the role of the Spirit is an invitation to murder the passion in our preaching.
Years ago, I spoke at a Promise Keepers conference to a stadium full of men. I had prepared carefully and was passionate about my topic. But oh, how I struggled through that message! I felt none of the usual euphoria and confidence that can make such an opportunity so much fun. When I finished, I stepped backstage and apologized to the host for such a poor performance. He told me that he was deeply moved by the message and spun me around to see hundreds of men responding to the invitation that I had given. I was overcome with the realization that the Holy Spirit had used both my weakness and my strength to accomplish His purpose.
Even when you don’t feel it, preach with passion! The Spirit has you covered. Isaiah 55:9 says, “… so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” If you believe this, it will be easier to accept the next suggestion.