Charles Spurgeon once said, “If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus.”
There are a lot of hard things this statement could be referring to, but for me, the hard work that has humbled me time and time again has been preaching. Preaching crushes me to dust. I know that when some people preach, they grow proud. But that has not been my experience. Preaching for me feels like getting spiritually punched in the gut. I (almost) always feel beaten and bruised when I descend the pulpit.
Why is this? I think for two reasons, at least. One, God’s Word is too glorious to ever do justice to. I do not think I will ever feel like I have adequately explained and applied the Bible because the Bible is too beautiful and significant to be expounded by my weak lips. Second, I am too weak. Whether it be my distracting quirks, my faltering articulation, or my sin, I constantly find much more to improve in my preaching than I do to be proud of. Both the greatness of the gospel and the weakness of the preacher make for quite a humbling experience week after week.
In thinking about the humbling nature of preaching, I found myself reflecting much on my weaknesses as a preacher. These reflections, far from being a bummer experience for me, were encouraging and beneficial. It is helpful to the soul to be reminded that although my preaching is chained to my weaknesses and limitation, God’s Word is not. Even through my failings God will succeed.
Why Share My Weaknesses as a Preacher?
What I would like to do now is publicly acknowledge what I think to be my greatest weaknesses as a preacher? But before I do that, I think it may be helpful to ask, “Why would I do such a thing?” Am I attempting to make you think I am a humble fellow? Am I fishing for compliments? After much self-examination (this post has been brewing in me for awhile), I can, as best as I am able with a clear conscience, say “No” to both of options. I am not doing this for those ends.
So again, why? A few reasons. First, I want to demand my heart continually recognize my weaknesses. I never want to be blind to my weaknesses and limitations because I know I will always have them and becoming blind to them means they won’t be improved or corrected. God forbid I doom myself to weakness when God is always desirous and willing to mature me. Pride chains us by never allowing God to change us.
Second, I want to destroy the idea others may have of me being almost-perfect. My online presence or public ministry may make it easy to think I am a super spiritual person without flaw, but, I most ardently assure you, I am not. Those who know me can tell you. This is an opportunity to let me readers adjust their view of me to what it should be: a desperately weak man with a magnificently faithful and patient Master.
Third, to encourage other preachers of teachers of God’s Word to acknowledge and own up to their weaknesses so they can continually seek the Lord’s help to improve themselves as preachers. This world needs the best preachers it can get. God’s Word is too good and this world is too bad to be OK with stagnant, stale, stunted preaching. You will always have room to grow and areas to correct and improve. Be vigilant. Be thoughtful. Be correctable. Always.
My Weaknesses as a Preacher
So, with that in mind, here are, what I think, my top 8 weaknesses as a preacher.
I am unnecessarily long-winded. All who know me are smirking as they read this one. Although I think longer sermons are generally more beneficial for churches today, I know my long-windedness is not intentional. I constantly go longer than I shoot for and often weary my listeners. Spurgeon has always encouraged and challenged me with these words, “We may sometimes say too much in a single sermon, and give our hearers a field of wheat instead of a loaf of bread.”
I can explain too much. This plays into my long-windedness. I often explain certain points to death. This is especially burdensome for listeners when the heavily explained points are merely sub-points. Fat sub-points slow down sermons.
I can explain too little. It isn’t uncommon for me to treat certain points in a superficial manner and gloss over them too quickly without engaging, explaining, and applying them.
My jokes can distract instead of help. Either because they’re dumb or offensive. Rarely because they’re too funny.
I am uncomfortable with silence and try to fill it in with empty words. A missionary visited our church recently and said, “Young man, you are a gifted teacher, but learn to take a breath.” Noted. Like a period in a sentence, silence can help link all your thoughts together in a graspable manner. You could even say that silence serves as an oratory period or paragraph break.
I can devote too little time to preparation. This has been especially true during the semester when school is in full swing.
I don’t always tether the sermon to the cross. I hate this. I believe the whole Bible ends in Christ so every sermon, no matter where you are in the Bible, should find itself tied to the cross in some organic and faithful way. I don’t always do this well. Again, to quote Spurgeon, “There ought to be enough of the gospel in every sermon to save a soul” (Soul Winner, p. 80).
My introductions are often too lengthy. In an effort to create a connection with the audience, I can easily spend 10+ minutes on an introduction.
What I Hope This Post Does
So, here’s what I would love for this post to bring about.
One, I would love for you to pray for me and other preachers in your life. Regardless if they own up to it or not, they have weaknesses that need improvement. Pray that they are those and seek the Spirit’s help to correct and grow in those areas.
Two, if you’re a preacher, I would love for this to bring you to examine your own preaching for your improvement. From preparation to final prayer, how can you improve your proclamatory skill so God’s Word would be most helpfully delivered?
Three, have patience on your preachers. It’s a terribly hard and humbling task that produces heartache like no other. Don’t stand against your church’s preachers or their preaching, but stand with them. Pray for them. Encourage them. Let them know you’re their friend and you appreciate their ministry and want to help them do what God has called them to do. They need it.
So, this post was longer than I anticipated. Go figure.