I was privileged yesterday to preach the Word at Lifepoint Church here in Ozark. It was a tremendous blessing for me to preach after having not done so for over a month. However, after I finished preaching, I got reacquainted with what I like to call “The Preacher’s Dilemma”.
So what is “The Preacher’s Dilemma”?
I’m glad you asked. The preacher’s dilemma is guarding his heart against two things that threaten to overtake him immediately after preaching. The first of those things is pride. For me this occurs when I preach what I think is a decent sermon. The people are responsive to the preached Word. They seem affected by the message preached. Some are shedding tears of conviction. Others are coming forward in prayer at the altar. People come up and encourage and thank me for preaching such a “wonderful message.” Herein lies the great danger. If I am not careful, the crafty serpent carefully plants the seed of pride in my heart. I can think too highly of myself because “I preached such a powerful message.” I mean, they said it. Not me, right? So long as I’m not praising myself with my own lips, it’s okay to be a little proud isn’t it? Absolutely not! Nothing will destroy a preacher more quickly than pride. When a preacher comes to the conclusion that he can affect change in hearts as a result of mere oratorical skill, he is sadly deceived.
The other side of the preachers dilemma is to step down from preaching and see that no one is responding. No one seems affected by what was just preached. No one really comes up to share with you about how the sermon encouraged them. Or worse yet, they come forward and give a very shallow pat on the back and a generic sort of “Good sermon, son!” This can lead my heart to despondency and discouragement. Anyone who has preached or led in a worship service knows exactly what I’m talking about. If you pay attention to your heart in those moments after you descend from delivering the Word, you will quickly find your heart given to pride or discouragement. Pride because you think you did great or discouragement because you didn’t do very well. Pride and discouragement are two of the nearest companions for preachers on Monday mornings.
Why do I feel this way? Why do preachers face this dilemma of pride and discouragement.
1) We place confidence in ourselves and not in the preached Word.
2) We have a bad case of misplaced identity.
Our identity before it is “preacher” or “pastor” is Christian. Our identity is found in Christ. Therefore, we can preach a message that deeply affects people and guard against pride by acknowledging that it was God the Holy Spirit who brought the transformation. This lead to humble rejoicing instead of prideful boasting. It was not my preaching skill that led to transformation. It was the Holy Spirit attending the preaching of the Word. This is how transformation happens when the Word is preached.
Likewise, I can “bomb” a sermon and while I may battle momentary discouragement, I ought not dwell there because God the Holy Spirit can still use a frail attempt to impact lives. The Holy Spirit uses imperfect preachers who preach imperfect message to impact people’s lives.
So the answer to the preacher’s dilemma is the gospel.
We are not justified by preaching good sermons nor are we condemned for preaching poorly. Our identity is in Christ and what he has done for us upon the cross to bring us back from our wayward and lost state.
So preacher brethren, Preach the Word and pray that God the Holy Spirit would use your sermons to impact lives and bring glory to Christ.
But don’t despair on this Monday morning. Whether you knocked it out of the park yesterday or you dribbled your sermon through the infield, Christ will never love you any more or any less than he does at this very moment.