Warning: This Blog Post May Make You Feel Uncomfortable around your pastor.
Last week, I wrote a blog post titled, “5 Emotions Most People Struggle with During a Sermon”. One of my smart aleck friends wanted to know more when he posed the question, “Yeah, but what about the emotions the pastor has during a sermon?”
I totally dug the question because I’d just preached the week before and some of the thoughts that spun around in my mind while my mouth moved were shocking to even me. Wanting to dig in a little more, I reached out to some of my pastor-friends and posed this question to them.
“What runs through your mind while you’re preaching? The more honest and raw, the better!”
Several responded and like manna from heaven, turns out ALL of us think about mostly the same thing when we’re preaching! Now, just to be clear, I’m not ratting out your pastor nor am I doing this so you have something to use against him during next week’s sermon. My goal is the exact opposite. I’m hoping that through this blog post:
- Followers of Jesus Christ will pray more for their pastors because they now have a little bit of a better sense of their humanity.
- Followers of Jesus Christ will be grateful for that fact that their pastors stay committed to their Churches despite their fears, hurts, insecurities, and frustrations.
- Followers of Jesus Christ will think clearly before participating in activities that cut deep into the soul of the man Jesus has entrusted as a local shepherd over their lives.
With that, I present you the 6 very real emotions your pastor is wrestling with when he stands in the pulpit to preach.
We’ve spent the better part of the week studying the passage we're about to preach. We've run it past our pastoral peers and it has suffered several painful deaths before being resurrected into what we now have in our hands. We’re now at the pulpit filled with anticipation that the Holy Spirit will show up, maybe not full blown like on the day of Pentecost, but at least like 63% of it. We’re hopeful that this is sermon that will grow our Church in its love for Jesus and its love for people in their lives who are far from God! C'mooooonnn Jesus!!
#63PercentIsEnoughForRevivalRight? #SundayGameFace #GetMyPreachOn
We’ve invited the congregation to turn to the passage being taught, but only like a quarter of the people brought their Bibles or are bothering to open their Bible app on their mobile devices. Now we’re wondering if we made a mistake putting the Bible passage onscreen. We see a number of empty seats and wonder if something we said in previous weeks chased them away to the cooler, more-rocking mega Church on the other side of town. Also, we can’t help but notice the distracted expressions and quizzical looks on a few people’s faces as we preach, which makes us break into a small-panic.
#IsThisSermonWorking? #AmIGoingDeepEnough? #IsThisTOODeep? #IsThatGuySleepingAlreadyAgain?!?
3. LEVEL ONE FEAR:
There is a particular section of our sermon that we’re wrestling with, not because it is hard to preach, but because we’ve struggled to try and live it out in our lives. We know what we’re saying is truth, but we feel hypocritical because it isn’t always lived out truthfully in our lives. This is the point we actually fear that the Holy Spirit will show up and put us through an Ananias and Sapphira scenario. We secretly pray that God will be merciful in granting us the grace to grow in that area of our lives as we challenge our congregation to do the same.
4. LEVEL TWO FEAR (seriously.)
Every. Single. Thought. Here:
- “That big dude in the 3rd row with his arms crossed looks like he’s about to run up on stage and murder me because he absolutely hates everything I’m saying!”
- “Is my fly up? Check again! (…but be sly about it)”
- “Argh! That did not come out the way I wanted it to.”
- “Did I study this passage enough? I should have looked up more Greek and Hebrew meanings of the text! I should have prayed more!”
- “Wow! This is the most boring sermon ever! Why am I even still talking?”
- “Yup, I’m definitely going to get fired tomorrow morning!”
- "I have no right to be up here, I totally missed my calling. I wonder if Home Depot is hiring?"
Despite our level 1 and 2 fears, there’s always that moment in the sermon when it feels like we’re suddenly “refilled” with the Holy Spirit. The needs of our congregation is clear in our heads and we know how to speak to those needs in the moment. We spot several faces that represent stories we know and speak the words of God (sometimes prophetically) into their lives. We long for our congregants to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to really really love their neighbors. Even as we speak, we silently ask the Holy Spirit to reveal more of Jesus to them. We spot the big dude (who we thought was going to murder us 13 minutes ago) and find him in tears because Jesus has met with him. The Holy Spirit reassures us in the moment that He is with us and loves us just as dearly as He does the people we’re ministering to.
As we wrap up the sermon, our hearts are filled with hope that Jesus will help them (and us) put to practice all they just heard. We understand and accept the fact that everything is now in the hands of the One who ransomed their souls. Physically and emotionally, however, we’re exhausted and want to go home to crash on the couch, preferably after a Buffalo Wild Wings lunch, but a few folks need personal ministry, so we hang back late into the afternoon. We’re literally operating on “E” (empty) at this point, but somehow, our Holy Spirit tank is still running at “F” (full). We thank God for the opportunity to shepherd His people and head home to love our families as best as we can with the little energy we have left for Sunday.
And there you go, my friends!
The truth is that despite how hard ministry is, my pastor-friends and I consider pastoral ministry a great privilege. Each of us has been called to shepherd our local Church in a manner consistent with how Jesus has gifted and called us. We don’t always do it perfectly, mostly because we’re ridiculously human. At the front of our minds, however, is the constant reminder that we will someday give an account to Jesus for how we led and cared for the lives He entrusted to us (James 3:1 and 1 Peter 5:1-3).
So, if our sermon sucks this week, or it makes you mad, or it isn’t deep enough, or it's too deep and way over your head, or it’s too long, or you feel like you’re not being “fed” enough, or (add your personal negative emotion here), please know that we really care about Jesus’ Church and wanna do right by Him (and by you).
But we’re also human, and more importantly, we’re on the same journey as you are and tryna look more like Jesus each day!
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.